Fitch Ratings: SCF May Miss Out on Tanker IPO Fever

Russia’s shipping company Sovcomflot could miss out on improving market fundamentals that are likely to present an opportunity for more tanker shipping companies to tap equity markets, rating agency Fitch Ratings says.

The rating agency believes that Russia’s Sovcomflot may further delay its IPO due to the difficulties created by US and EU sanctions.

“The Russian government, as Sovcomflot’s sole shareholder, made the necessary preparations for the company’s IPO in 2014. But it was postponed amid volatile financial markets, and we expect it to be further delayed,” Fitch Ratings pointed out.

According to Fitch Ratings, an IPO would be likely to materially improve Sovcomflot’s credit metrics and could lead to a positive rating action, provided shipping sector fundamentals remain in line with the agency’s expectations.

Belgium’s Euronav raised USD 229m through an IPO at the end of January, having increased the size of the offering from USD 166m due to high demand. Tankships Investment Holdings also plans to raise up to USD 100m in a NASDAQ listing.

“We believe other tanker shipping companies may follow suit with an IPO or other equity issuance. This should help them at least partially repair weak balance sheets caused by falling profitability and continued high capex through the industry downturn,“Fitch Ratings added.

The rating agency expects a better supply/demand balance for tanker shipping in 2015.

“Slower growth in capacity should lead to a gradual tightening in the tanker market, especially in the crude tanker segment, which will support higher capacity utilisation rates. Crude tanker tonne-mile demand should increase by about 2% a year in 2014-2015. We expect the net global tanker fleet to grow by about 1% in 2014 and 2% in 2015, mainly in the product tanker segment. But we forecast crude tanker fleet growth to remain flat,” Fitch Ratings said.

As explained by the agency, the drop in oil prices is likely to strengthen shipping companies’ financial profiles.

Oil tanker rates should be supported by the “contango” structure in oil prices, where crude for future delivery is more expensive than current prices.

Fitch said that this may prompt higher demand for tankers used for floating storage as lower fuel costs should also help boost profitability.

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