The Zenith Shipping Group of Greek owner Sophocles Zoullas has concluded yet another lucrative sale of a supramax vessel in a strategy that has seen it raise nearly $110m in revenues since last year.
That compares with about $40m that Zoullas had spent to acquire the vessels in 2015 and 2016, when the market was in the doldrums — and represents a profit of approaching $70m over six years.
Very few people were daring to buy vessels at the time, when Baltic indexes were hitting multi-decade lows and bulkers were sent en masse to lay-up.
Zoullas’ gamble is paying off handsomely.
In the latest deal, he fetched about $16m from the sale of the 53,800-dwt Denali (built 2009), according to market sources.
He had acquired the ship in 2015 for $9.3m from Goldenport Holdings, a Greek company that was listed in the UK at the time.
Zoullas’ previous six sales achieved similar profit margins. TradeWinds had reported on most of them earlier this year. In a few cases, the technical manager of the ships — Technomar — was mistakenly identified as the seller.
The first vessels to go in the second half of last year were the 53,400-dwt Teton (built 2008) and Eolus (built 2009), which Zenith sold to UK-based Lomar Shipping for $26m en bloc — after having purchased them from Germany’s Hartmann Group for just $9.8m in total.
Nick Georgiou-led Lomar has even managed to squeeze a little more profit out of the Eolus since, flipping the vessel last month for $16.2m.
The ship, which was trading with Lomar as Crete Trader, is believed now to be controlled by Middle Eastern interests and has been renamed Elvita R.
Zoullas’ next sale was that of the 56,800-dwt Skylight (renamed AE Venus, built 2009) — bought from German owner Oskar Wehr for $5.7m in May 2016 and sold to Xiamen International Trade Group for $15.5m.
Then it was the turn of the 56,900-dwt Antero (renamed Mega Speed, built 2011), which went to Bangladeshi interests for $17.7m after it was purchased for $6.9m from Germany’s Wulff Hermann in March 2016.
In May 2022, the 53,500-dwt pair Evans and Crestone (both built 2009) followed, at $16.2m each. Zoullas had bought them in March 2016 from a German KG (limited partnership) company for a little more than $4m each.
Apart from the profitable sales of the seven ships, Zoullas also benefited from trading them on the spot market, where they were earning robust rates of between $15,000 per day and $30,000 per day.
The sales do not mean that Zoullas is exiting the dry bulk sector. He is understood to be still in control of additional supramax, panamax and kamsarmax vessels.
This suggests that his recent sales should be seen as an opportunistic move to cash in on previous investments rather than reflecting doubts about the bulker market outlook.
The secondhand bulker market has weakened in recent weeks amid falling freight rates. However, values are still high enough to allow for asset plays on timely bought vessels.
Another company initially believed to have profitably sold a supramax is Germany’s AO Schifffahrt, which reportedly sold the 58,000-dwt Teresa Oetker (built 2010) for $17.25m.
The Hamburg-based outfit, however, dismissed that information and said the vessel continues trading with AO Schifffahrt with a charter.
Elsewhere, low-profile Greek player White Sea Navigation is said to be selling the 55,600-dwt Sophia K (built 2011) for between $22.6m and $22.9m. White Sea acquired the ship from Japan’s Nikko Kisen for between $15m and $15.4m.
The vessels are often bought by companies specialising in supramaxes or pursuing long-term fleet renewal and expansion that is not affected by short-term vagaries of the market.
One such example is United Arab Emirates-based Densay Shipping, which has just taken delivery of the 56,500-dwt Nathan Brandon (renamed SSI Defiant, built 2013).
Brokers had reported earlier this month that Singapore-based interests sold that ship for about $18.5m. However, TradeWinds has been told by market sources that the deal was actually agreed at a lower price a short while ago.
“Her very prompt delivery, good position, excellent condition and a long-term fixture just before freight rates corrected were a contributor to the price,” sources close to the company said.
Densay is a rapidly expanding company. Its fleet has exceeded the 30-ship mark and is racing towards 40 vessels, with a string of newbuildings to be delivered up until 2024.
This article was amended after original publication to include a denial by AO Schifffahrt that it has sold one of its supramaxes