It might take an analyst to fully work out whether John Fredriksen will push hard for a consolidation with Belgian tanker giant Euronav.

But not a shipping equity analyst. More the type who might find a window into the psyche of the legendary entrepreneur.

"It's a job much more for a psychiatrist than a financial analyst," one veteran shipowner told TradeWinds.

"It has more to do with John's state of mind. What is he thinking at age 77 in what could be a final act in his shipping career?

"How enticing is it to create the world's greatest tanker company and return to his glory days as a younger man in the crude tanker sector?"

A combination with Euronav would pair Frontline's 69 tankers and $1.8bn market capitalisation with Euronav's fleet of 82 and a share value of $2.4bn, creating the type of mega-listing long called for by capital-market experts.

But is that really his aim, or does Fredriksen just believe Euronav is undervalued and will gain share price in a recovering tanker market?

Even financial analysts cannot quite resist playing the psychiatry game.

"In this case it could be different," one researcher said, referring to Fredriksen's 20-year streak of unsuccessful consolidation efforts.

Understanding John Fredriksen's psyche could be the key to the unfolding drama with his stake in Belgian tanker owner Euronav. Photo: Trond Lillestolen

"It seems perhaps that John has awoken and isn't thrilled that Frontline is not in the top 10 of VLCC owners. He acquired the resale VLCCs earlier this year and the modern secondhands recently as well. It feels like he wants to get bigger."

Frontline is ranked 11th in a recent ranking of VLCC owners by shipbroker Clarksons.

Another shipowner, noting Euronav's trading discount to peers and its own net asset value (NAV), said Fredriksen's approach fits with his typical methodology.

"I think he's had a reasonable intent to buy all these companies, but he always wants to buy on the cheap — he's never been seen to pay a fair price," he said.

"He's been able to get 10% of Euronav at maybe a 25% discount to NAV. Again, on the cheap. On the other hand, the Euronav board has to ask the question why they've been so cheap. I wouldn't be surprised if John and the board have [had] a discussion."