Odfjell chief executive Harald Fotland is unfazed by Stolt-Nielsen’s growing stake in his company.
Fotland described Stolt-Nielsen’s acquisition of 3.2m Odfjell shares earlier this week as one company simply reorganising its holdings in the Oslo-listed, Bergen-based chemical tanker owner.
“I think we will have to look at this from a historical perspective,” Fotland said during the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call.
“Back in 2016, Stolt-Nielsen bought Jo Tankers. As a consequence of that merger, Jo Tankers and Stolt-Nielsen have jointly owned eight super segregators. And then in March 2022, Stolt-Nielsen flagged their 5% shareholding in Odfjell.
“Since then, we have seen the two groups as one group due to the cooperation of the super segregators. The fact that shares are shifting inside that group doesn’t mean that much to us.”
Jo Tankers was a privately held chemical tanker owner controlled by JO Odfjell until the sale, which valued the company at $575m.
JO Odfjell — an offshoot of the Odfjell shipping dynasty and separate from Laurence Odfjell-backed Odfjell — later changed its name to Farvatn.
Before selling its shares, Farvatn was Odfjell’s fifth-largest shareholder with 4% of the company.
The sale brought Stolt-Nielsen’s position in Odfjell to 13.6% of all shares, or 8.2m shares behind only Laurence Odfjell’s Norchem.
On the call, Fotland said a merger between his company and Stolt-Nielsen was undesirable.
“Odfjell does not want a merger. Our customers do not want a merger. And the legal advice we saw back in 2022 clearly said a merger would not be possible,” he said.
Fotland added that Team Tankers, Chembulk Tankers, Nordic Tankers and Fairfield Chemical Tankers have all been snapped up by bigger players in recent years.
“There has been consolidation in the market already,” he said.
Liquid logistics player
Together, Stolt-Nielsen and Odfjell would control a fleet with as many as 240 chemical tankers, 18 terminals and the world’s biggest tank container fleet.
New Stolt-Nielsen chief executive Udo Lange said he wants to position the company as a liquid logistics player rather than a shipping company, but he also said the company is active in buying assets in what is shaping up to be a strong chemical tanker market.
For the fourth quarter, Odfjell brought in $52.1m and $203m in the full year, which the company said was a record.
Despite the strong earnings and confidence moving forward, Odfjell’s series A shares fell NOK 6.50 ($0.61) to NOK 137.50 in midday trading.