Just one day after getting news of a poison pill adopted by US tanker owner International Seaways’ board to ward off his advances, John Fredriksen is spitting the medicine back toward New York.
Famatown Finance, International Seaways’ largest shareholder at 16.6% and a member of the Norwegian shipping tycoon’s umbrella company Seatankers Group, ripped the New York-based company’s defensive tactic and pressed to help appoint two additional members to its board of directors.
Seatankers said it had accumulated the stake “with the view of International Seaways representing an attractive platform with exposure to a product and crude oil transportation market”, which is believed to be in the early stages of recovery.
“International Seaways’ share price and return to shareholders has for a prolonged time underperformed relative to peers. With decades of experience and network in the maritime transportation industry, the Seatankers Group is confident it could help unlock further shareholder value in International Seaways.”
International Seaways responded at TradeWinds’ deadline with a robust defence of its value creation for shareholders but said it will “carefully evaluate” the Famatown letter.
Seatankers went on to rip International Seaways’ new shareholder rights agreement, which effectively bars it from exceeding a 17.5% stake in the company by promising heavy dilution, achieved through granting discounted shares to other holders but not the would-be consolidator — in this case Fredriksen.
“The Seatankers Group was therefore extremely disappointed with International Seaways’ recent implementation of a poison pill, which was adopted without shareholder approval and without any material dialogue with the Seatankers Group,” the letter states.
“This poison pill will hinder communication with shareholders regarding strategic decisions and will not allow shareholders to realize the full value of their investments.”
In an email comment to TradeWinds, Seatankers executive Gunnar Winther Eliassen elaborated on the company’s intentions.
“Implementing a poison pill is not the way to go about it,” he said. “We don’t have any other agenda than initiating a constructive dialogue and assisting the company on how to close the valuation gap vs peers and unlock shareholder value.”
Toward that end, Seatankers is urging International Seaways to appoint two new directors to the board in consultation with the Fredriksen company.
Seatankers asserted that it can assist International Seaways management in several key areas: capital allocation including dividends, debt refinancing, cost reduction including vessel operating expenses, chartering and strategic advice.
“This will set International Seaways on a path to unlocking further shareholder value through the implementation of the strategic and financial improvements discussed above,” the letter concluded.
International Seaways is led by chief executive Lois Zabrocky and chief financial officer Jeff Pribor.
Its board already consists of 10 members, including Zabrocky and chairman Douglas Wheat, a private equity veteran.
Other members include Craig H Stevenson Jr, the veteran tanker executive who formerly led International Seaways’ 2021 acquisition of Diamond S Shipping, and Alexandra Kate Blankenship, a former director of several Fredriksen companies including Frontline, Seadrill, Golden Ocean Group and Avance Gas.
The battle over the tycoon’s International Seaways investment comes amid a fight over his move against another New York-listed tanker owner, with the bid by Fredriksen’s Frontline to merge with rival Euronav facing resistance from the Saverys family.
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