Shipping billionaire Idan Ofer continues to up his ownership in Ireland-based product tanker owner Ardmore Shipping.

In a US Securities and Exchange Commission filing, the Israeli shipowner reveals he now controls 10.55% of the New York-listed company.

The 3.625m shares are owned by EPS Ventures, which is wholly owned by Quantum Pacific Shipping, a discretionary trust in which Ofer is the beneficiary.

Earlier in April, an Ardmore filing revealed that companies controlled by Ofer had taken a 9.53% holding.

The new amended filing on form 13G does not contain information on Ofer’s intentions for his investment.

The form is typically used to indicate a stake of more than 5% when there is no aim to influence control of the company.

But the move will inevitably fuel speculation that the Israeli owner could go for a takeover or merger involving Ardmore and his own companies.

Fellow tycoon John Fredriksen bought a 10% stake in tanker owner Euronav last year, and is now trying to engineer a merger with his own Frontline.

Fredriksen also described this stake as a pure investment at first.

Ofer is believed to be the biggest shareholder in Ardmore, ahead of US fund Private Management Group on a little over 8%.

Always a takeover target?

The Ardmore share was trading up 2.9% at $5.67 on Monday, making Ofer’s stake worth more than $19.5m, based on a market cap of $195.2m.

Ardmore has not commented on the Ofer shareholding.

The shipowner is a perennial object of takeover speculation, which chief executive Anthony Gurnee has acknowledged.

Ardmore has a fleet of about 30 product and chemical carriers ranging between 25,000 dwt and 50,000 dwt, including tankers that are commercially managed or finance-leased.

Wide tanker interests

Ofer is best known for giant Singapore company Eastern Pacific Shipping, and has interests in tankers, bulkers, container ships and gas carriers.

The tycoon is also associated with Ace Tankers, the Dutch shipowner that recently acquired six stainless steel chemical carriers from Singapore-based Hafnia for $252.4m.

Hafnia had acquired those last year in its takeover of Oaktree Capital Management’s Chemical Tankers Inc.

In 2019, Eastern Pacific swooped on the 13-ship chemical tanker fleet of Hafnia parent BW Group.

And TradeWinds reported that Ofer and his Eastern Pacific bought a stake of around 3% to 4% in New York-listed Scorpio Tankers in the same year.

The magnate has long wanted a public tanker company. He failed with a $200m listing for his Quantum Crude Tankers company in Oslo in 2014.