Norway’s Rasmussen Group is lining up an IPO for its majority-controlled seismic survey shipping company, Shearwater GeoServices.

The investment group has instructed Shearwater to prepare for a stock market debut, according to Finansavisen.

Director Dag Rasmussen said the earliest this will happen is in the first half of 2024.

The group’s valuation of its 77.2% Shearwater stake implies the shipping company is worth NOK 20bn ($1.8bn).

The holding has nearly doubled in value over the past year, from NOK 8.6bn at the end of 2021 to NOK 15.4bn at the end of 2022.

Even with losses from other equity investments, this means Rasmussen has posted a pre-tax profit of NOK 3.5bn for 2022 — the second best in its history.

The director believes the valuation of Shearwater is conservative and that there is still upside in the seismic company.

The Shearwater fleet currently consists of 22 ships, with nine still laid up.

“Now we hope that demand will strengthen further so that more ships will come into operation,” Rasmussen said.

He added that Shearwater, which is run by chief executive Irene Waage Basili, is likely to deliver a very good cash flow in the years ahead.

The seismic shipping sector has undergone huge consolidation in recent years, leaving the survivors well-placed to scoop contracts.

Fleet expanded

In 2021, Shearwater added six ships from collapsed Middle East owner Polarcus and, in 2020, the company completed its acquisition of CGG’s seismic vessel fleet.

Two years before that, it bought WesternGeco and its fleet of 12 ships from US giant Schlumberger in a landmark $600m deal.

“We have gone from five to two Western players and bought all the ships at reasonable prices,” Rasmussen said.

The group has loan exposure worth another NOK 1.27bn to Shearwater, which was founded by Rasmussen and GC Rieber Shipping in 2016 with four seismic acquisition ships.

Schlumberger has a 12.9% stake, while GC Rieber retains 8.4%.

Equity in the Rasmussen Group rose from NOK 25.8bn to NOK 27.8bn in 2022.

The cash balance was NOK 764m.

Oslo-listed rival seismic shipping rival PGS has a market cap of $627m.