Zodiac Maritime Agencies, a global ship owner and manager, could be interested in acquiring STX Pan Ocean, Korea’s leading operator of bulk carriers, industry sources said.
The London-based ship management company, owned by the Ofer family, is believed to have emerged as one of the potential overseas candidates to purchase a controlling 36.8 percent stake in the Korean shipping company, the sources claimed.
The 36.8 percent is held by STX, the parent holding company, STX Offshore & Shipbuilding, STX Engine and some of its executives, including STX chairman Kang Duk-soo.
Both sides are likely to hold talks in Singapore, where STX Pan Ocean has a wholly-owned subsidiary and is listed.
Zodiac’s main business is chartering out ships to shipping companies, and could generate synergy with Pan Ocean through the acquisition, the industry sources noted.
The global ship owner had previously ordered bulk carriers from STX’s shipbuilding unit, and Pan Ocean has sent information to three potential overseas buyers, according to news reports.
Pan Ocean has been considered a cash cow of STX Group, and its bulk carrier operations account for over 70 percent of its business, according to financial statements. But recently, it has been suffering losses amid a slowdown in global shipping.
STX has been seeking to deleverage through sales of core units to secure liquidity for financial soundness.
Despite STX Pan Ocean’s recent losses, industry sources said the company still has a high brand value due to its bulk carrier services.
The company disclosed via regulatory filing that it was in talks with a strategic buyer, and told the media that potential overseas buyers have shown more interest in Pan Ocean than domestic companies.
Glovis and Samsung SDS had been mentioned as potential Korean bidders but they have denied interest.
Pan Ocean has a long-term contract with customers including POSCO, KOSEP and KOSPO, according to financial statements.
STX said that nothing had been decided yet, adding that no companies have yet expressed interest in acquiring Pan Ocean.
Zodiac’s Shanghai office could not be reached for comment.
By Park Hyong-ki (email@example.com