Shipbroking businesses are eager to grow by consolidation and may even begin to list their shares publicly in the years head, according to Lightship Chartering chief executive Sune Fladberg.

Fladberg has been busy overseeing the shipbroking house's own global expansion while chairman Morten Have takes a health-related "leave of absence".

In the meantime, high shipping markets are stimulating this appetite for consolidation, Fladberg told TradeWinds.

"I have a feeling that there are merger dialogues going on a lot in the market and I think, with the market coming back, some people are ready to cash in," he said.

"Whether we will be involved or not, it's too soon to say but we anticipate some big purchases coming."

Lightship would be interested in acquiring broking desks or businesses "for the right match", he said.

Fladberg thinks that more shipbroking businesses could go public within the next five years. Lightship has no particular plans on this front, but he added that it would not rule out the option.

"We are a growing company and we contact a lot of people where we want to grow," Fladberg said.

"The kind of feedback we're getting is more that people are interested in joining forces rather than being hired as a single person, so it's more like the teams or the whole company that seems interested."

On leave

Fladberg is holding things down while Lightship executive chairman Have takes a "leave of absence".

He is aware of "about 20 different rumours" in the market about Have's whereabouts.

"We're not really going to dignify any of these [rumours] with a response or reaction because I think it's pretty obvious from the varying degree of the rumours that people don't know what's going on and they are just guessing things," Fladberg said.

The reasons for Have's absence are related to his health, he told TradeWinds.

"It's not like he's dying, but he saw the personal need to take some time off because he has been working hard — 24/7 — for many years," Fladberg said.

Have has headed up the broking shop since 2015 and has spearheaded its expansion around the world.

"I have been on a leave of absence for about three months and am aware of the numerous rumours about my person appearing on a weekly basis, all of which I 100% refute like the one which came across your table," he said in an emailed reply to a TradeWinds enquiry on 8 September.

Lightship Chartering executive chairman Morten Have (pictured in 2012) has temporarily stepped away from the business for health-related reasons, according to the firm's CEO. Photo: Geoff Garfield

"I can assure you of my well-being and I can assure you that I am in touch with my company several times a day and for the record Lightship has never been more successful that we are at present."

The email's IP address shows the message was sent from within central Europe.

Have was in Europe last week but has since flown back to Dubai, Fladberg told TradeWinds on Monday.

TradeWinds has made multiple attempts to speak with Have directly, but calls to his mobile phone have been met with a "voicemail full" message.

More expansion

Lightship concentrates on dry cargo but aims to enter a minimum of two new business segments by the end of 2022, starting with tankers, Fladberg said. Its previous team of tanker brokers were acquired by a competitor.

"We need to hire the right guys. We see the current longer downturn in the tanker segment as an opportunity and we hope that we can find the right outfit to join us sooner rather than later," he said.

Lightship's headcount has increased by around 25% over the past year.

The firm has just opened a new office in Singapore, headed up by ex-Ifchor broker Thorbjorn Zorn, with plans to hire more in the coming year.

Lightship has also poached brokers from Thurlestone Shipping for its panamax desk in London.

Its Dubai office is also growing and the emirate is becoming an increasingly important hub for Lightship because so many owners, operators and trading houses are opening branches in the city, Fladberg explained.

"We also have established an offshore unit called Lightship Energy out there. There's a lot of offshore potential in that region and India as well," he added.

"There's a shift from oil into more of a wind-power focus in the offshore industry."

Next year, the firm aims to open an office in Florida to target the US dry cargo market, as well as a new office in the Pacific region.