Oslo-listed shipping conglomerate Wilh Wilhelmsen Holding has kick-started what could be a huge share buyback drive.

The vessel management and investment group said it has tendered to repurchase up to 440,000 shares.

This will be split evenly between A and B series.

The A shares were trading at NOK 362 each in Oslo on Tuesday, up 13% since the last close, and the non-voting B stock at NOK 350, up 11%.

The tranche would cost NOK 236m ($21.6m) at the average between the two of NOK 537.

The company won authorisation from shareholders last year to buy back as much as 10% of the outstanding stock.

The combined market cap of the two shares series is NOK 16bn, making the full buyback worth up to $146m.

DNB Markets is acting as sole bookrunner.

The Thomas Wilhelmsen-led company owns nearly 38% of car carrier giant Wallenius Wilhelmsen, which counts 126 vessels in its fleet.

The group also has an 11% stake in car carrier-owning peer Hyundai Glovis through its Treasure unit.

Profit up in 2023

Willhelmsen Holding also published its 2023 annual report, revealing net profit of $487m, up from $427m in 2023.

Revenue reached $1bn from $958m the year before.

Chief executive Thomas Wilhelmsen said: “Despite the economic backdrop, it proved to be a strong year.”

He went on to call 2023 “one of the best years in the history of this group”.

The maritime services segment delivered an increase across all main activities driven by volume growth, acquisitions and inflationary adjustments, the company said.

The division has 5,300 employees, 11,300 seafarers and manages about 450 vessels.

“We will continue to build and strengthen our global maritime network, as well as our position as a trusted partner for our customers both at sea and in port,” the CEO added.