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‘Now not the right time for IPO,’ says Stolt Tankers chief

Spin-off from parent company Stolt-Nielsen postponed due to banking turmoil

‘We will wait for the right moment to go,’ Lucas Vos tells Lloyd’s List

STOLT Tankers is putting off its initial public offering due to turmoil in the banking sector.

The Stolt-Nielsen business unit, which operates 166 chemical tankers, had been intending to list in Oslo, but uncertainty in the financial markets have led to plans being postponed.

“We are ready,” chief executive Lucas Vos told Lloyd’s List. “Performance is good, financials and environmental plans are solid — but we will wait for the turmoil in the banking sector to recede. We will wait for the right moment to go.”

The timing is still unclear — it could be later this year or next — but the plan to spin off from the parent is steadfast to allow for consolidation.

“There is appetite for a pure liquid chemical company,” he said, though there are no active discussions at this stage.

Being a standalone company would also allow Stolt-Nielsen’s Stolthaven Terminals business to get a boost.

Stolt Tankers, the largest of Stolt-Nielsen’s units, reported operating profit of $87m for the three-months ending February 28, up from $25m in the same period a year earlier. 

It recently bought two 15,000 dwt stainless steel chemical tankers, built in 2018 and 2019, which will enter the Caribbean trade, a big growth market.

The vessels, which will be delivered in the second quarter, will be named Stolt Condor and Stolt Tucan. They will be retrofitted with propeller boss cap fins, variable frequency drives, and torque thrust metres to make them even more fuel-efficient and lower their carbon footprint, the company said.

The company has 83 deepsea ships in total, out of which 72 are owned (including 17 in a joint venture), three on time charter and eight operate in a pool. It also has 83 regional ships, out of which 43 are owned, including 20 in JVs. The rest are on time charter/bareboat charter. 

Mr Vos said he is on the lookout for more secondhand tonnage to replace older ships, but there is less available in the market, given a stronger rate environment.

Given its ageing fleet, it was also time to look at newbuildings, he said. However, it was difficult to get yard space. In terms of new fuels, he prefers to be a follower, given the containership owners are taking the lead.

Since “some of our ships are getting older, even if we replace them with conventional fuelled ships, it will still allow us to reach our 2050 climate target”, he said.

The company has pledged to reduce carbon intensity by 50% relative to 2008 levels by 2030, have at least one carbon-neutral ship in the fleet by 2030, and be a carbon-neutral business by 2050.

It operates about two dozen ships aged 24 and older, according to its fleet list. It decommissioned two last year with “a few more” slated for demolition in 2024.

Given the strong market, it is a “continuous dilemma”, said Mr Vos. 

In the meantime, there is “still so much to be gained from efficiencies” such as using shore power, which means the ship does not burn fuel while docked. It has invested in biofuels and is in early talks about potentially setting up a green corridor.

On the chemical tanker market outlook, Mr Vos has a positive view given more favourable supply-demand dynamics.

A small fleet decline in specialised tankers is set against demand for liquid chemicals increasing by 2%-3%, and with no new deliveries, the market will be solid for the next few years, provided there is no big change in the global economy, he said.

The Russia-Ukraine conflict saw Europe importing more from the Middle East and the US because of the higher energy costs, but since those prices have come off from the peak, those flows may shrink, he said, but a new trade route is emerging from Brazil to Europe for renewable energy feedstocks such as ethanol.

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