Mercator Lines to buy 3 bulk vessels

Date: 12-06-2009

Mercator Lines, India’s second-largest private shipping company, is expanding its capacity and is set to acquire three gearless post-Panamax bulk carriers totalling 2.77 lakh dead-weight tonnage (DWT) on a charter basis. Company sources said the investment would be around Rs 500 crore for this additional expansion of vessels. DWT refers to how much mass or weight of cargo that a ship can carry.

This development comes at a time when the shipping industry has been grappling with weak spot freight rates on a year-on-year basis in both dry and tanker segments. For instance, in the tanker segment like Suezmax, freight rates are currently at $2,580 per day compared with $84,790 per day a year earlier. Mercator has attempted to offset this difficult operating environment by going in for long-term contracts with its key customers.

As with all its other dry bulk acquisitions, these additional vessels will also be under its Singapore-listed subsidiary Mercator Lines (Singapore). Out of the three vessels proposed to be acquired, two are from the New Yangzijiang Shipyard in China, which will remain with Mercator until 2014. The third vessel is from Sungdong Shipyard, South Korea and will be on a charter with Mercator until 2020. The existing capacity of the company’s dry bulk fleet is approximately 1.2 million DWT.

Mercator’s own fleet currently comprises 12 tankers with a combined capacity of 13.7 lakh DWT, 12 dry bulkers with a combined capacity of 8.98 lakh DWT, four dredgers with a combined capacity of 31,854 cubic metres (CBM) and a 350 feet oil jack-up rig. Mercator has diversified its revenue stream, including coal mining in Indonesia coupled with its dredgers which are on a long-term lease and its recent acquisition of oil rigs. A combination of long-term contracts and a diversified revenue stream helped Mercator Lines’ consolidated operating income, including that of its Singapore subsidiary, touch Rs 2,210.5 crore in FY09 compared with Rs 1,477 crore for FY08 translating to a 50% growth. The profit after tax (PAT) stood at Rs 467 crore which was a 30% growth. It is estimated that Mercator generates nearly 45-50% of its revenues in FY09 from long-term contracts. Also, the company generated nearly 11.5% of its topline in FY09 from non-shipping activities.

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 - Mercator Ltd.

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