Newbuilding sales fail to set price benchmark (Lloyd’s List, 7th July 2009)

Brokers say new orders do not accurately reflectmarket values, with yard prices expected to fall later this year Tom Leander and Mike Grinter

ASIAN brokers and a shipowner agree that a realistic benchmark price for newbuildings remains as elusive as ever, despite a flurry of orders and resales over the last month.

The shipyards’ orders probably filled slots left by cancelled vessels, rather than added to their orderbook. But nevertheless, there is keen interest in the new price levels, to measure the extent of any fall since the global economic collapse stalled ordering last September.

However, one Shanghai broker said the levels seen may not paint an accurate or representative picture of the market, because of the complex nature of the deals.

He cited the recent Grand China Logistics deal with Zhoushan Jinhaiwai to buy 30 bulkers for $2bn.

Grand China is also buying approximately 50% of the shipyard and “receiving

18 capesizes and 12 kamsarmaxes for its trouble”, said the broker.

He added that the Grand China price probably equated to $40m more than expected, given today’s market price and the cost of construction, which he put at $60m for a capesize and $40m for a kamsarmax.

He was not willing to speculate why Grand China would pay $40m over the odds but rumours that the company may gain a controlling stake of 51% suggested a bailout at the yard.

The Shanghai broker also believed that there was also more than meets the eye in Oman Shipping’s recent $484m order for four very large ore carriers at Chinese yard Jiangsu Rongsheng.

“The price of about $120m per VLOC is said to reflect a discount on last year’s prices of 10%,” he said. “That would imply that the market could support deals of $130m or more. I doubt this is a realistic assessment of the true value.”

It is understood that Oman is taking over four of the 12 VLOCs ordered last July at the yard by Brazilian miner Vale. In turn Vale will lease the vessels from Oman Shipping via a long-term time charter or contract of affreightment.

In the resale market, prices again do not seem to be matching brokers’ expectations.

In a landmark deal, Greece’s Navios Maritime Holdings contracted to buy four capesize vessels sold on by Alba Maritime to Sungdong Shipbuilding of South Korea.

A Hong Kong broker said that price of $81.3m each was perceived to be well over the market price of $60m, despite the vessels having charter parties attached.

The practice of switching orders also continues, with agreed prices adding to the emerging picture for newbuilding benchmarks.

Belgian shipowner Delphis Container Lines last week asked South Korea’s Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction to change a July 2007 order for four 2,300 teu containerships to three capesize vessels. At $75m each the price is still considerably higher than the $60m-$65m that brokers suggest is a clearer reflection of the market.

But South Korean yards are maintaining what some owners maintain is an inflexible stance on cancellation requests.

One spokesman claimed that with a three-year orderbook their yard was not yet prepared to stoop to owners’ demands.

“There continues to be an unbridgeable gap between what owners are suggesting and we are prepared to offer,” he said. “I doubt that many of the enquiries we are receiving are genuinely serious.”

But some suspect that the resolve of South Korean shipyards is unlikely to outlast the second half of 2009.

Quentin Soanes, executive director of Braemar Seascope, a London broker, said that cash shortages in many yards would drive down prices in the second half of the year – when he expected to see more deals.

“The yards have been cost cutting, and we haven’t seen this reflected in the pricing yet,” Mr Soanes said.

Such a view is endorsed by the director of Singapore’s Pacific Carriers, Keith Denholm, who said that he was sceptical that anything resembling a decisive trigger in the market has yet been pulled.

“I’ve believed for a long time that pricing on newbuildings on panamaxes will eventually return to levels seen in 2000 – around $20m,” he said.

He added that a handful of new deals at discounts of 10% to levels seen one year ago still reflect a market that has not felt the full pinch of reality. 

Instead, he argues that cancellations might appear to be affecting the market but he claims to know for a fact that the assets are still being built.

“With government help they will most likely be sold to national carriers at greatly reduced prices,” he said. “The next stage of the newbuildings pricing meltdown is yet to happen.”