Major Greek shipowner Thenamaris has emerged as the buyer of South Korea’s Polaris Shipping’s four newcastlemax bulk carriers that attracted more than 10 bidders.

Shipping sources said Nikolas Martinos-led Thenamaris bought the 209,500-dwt Solar Pride and Solar Quantum (both built 2020) and the 2021-built, 208,900-dwt Solar Nova and Solar Oak.

They said the shipowner had paid more than $67m for each of the modern scrubber-fitted vessels.

An Asian dry bulk shipping player described this as “an amazing price”. However, given the strong competition for the vessels the price was always likely to be firm, brokers note.

The sales price is above what VesselsValue estimates the ships are worth.

The online database puts a price tag of $64.74m each on the Solar Pride and Solar Quantum, $63.31m on the Solar Nova and $63.83m on the Solar Oak.

Sources said the ships were sold charter-free and that Thenamaris is scheduled to take delivery of them between April and May. Other market players, however, pointed out that delivery time will be later, in June or July.

Officials at Polaris declined to comment when contacted. Thenamaris refrains from discussing commercial transactions.

With Thenamaris known to be a canny player in the secondhand market, a transaction at these price levels is perhaps the strongest sign yet of how upbeat some market players are for large bulkers.

“That the Greek buyer is willing to pay higher than the market value for the bulk carriers demonstrates it is bullish on the outlook of the bulker sector,” added the Asian dry bulk shipping player.

This is also demonstrated by the fact that apart from the 10 bids submitted for the Polaris ships, about 30 players are said to have declared an interest in them, according to US brokers.

Polaris is not the only company that managed to sell its bulk carriers at a juicy price.

On Monday, Oslo-listed 2020 Bulkers announced disposing of a pair of four-year-old newcastlemaxes 7% above their estimated market value.

The New Times Shipbuilding-constructed, 208,500-dwt Bulk Shanghai and 208,000-dwt Bulk Seoul (both built 2019) went to an unaffiliated party for a total of $127.5m, or $63.75m per ship.

VesselsValue estimates the Bulk Shanghai is worth $59.42m and the Bulk Seoul $59.35m.

Bullish on China

Market analysts see the trend is underpinned by bullish views on the Chinese economy.

Buyers of large bulkers are encouraged by the latest measures taken by China’s government to accelerate bank lending for real estate projects, noted Eva Tzima, head of research at Seaborne Shipbrokers in Athens, in a note on 12 February.

Seoul-based Polaris is a privately owned company that was set up in 2004 by HS Han and WJ Kim.

The owners of Polaris have put up the company for sale and private equity firm Woori Private Equity Asset Management, known as Woori PE, was reported to have signed a memorandum of understanding to acquire the company in October last year to complete the deal by year’s end.

However, the sale of Polaris is said to have hit a stalemate as the buyer and seller have yet to agree on the sales price.

The exclusivity period for acquiring the company lapsed in January, and shipping sources said it now seems very unlikely for Woori PE to finalise the acquisition under the initial terms and conditions.

Lucrative asset play

Besides having sold the newcastlemax bulk carriers, the South Korean company is also looking for buyers for its two charter-free LR2 tankers — the Daehan-built 110,000-dwt Polar Ace and Polar Bright (both built 2018).

VesselsValue puts the market value of the two aframax product carriers at $73.37m and $71.51m, respectively.

As for Thenamaris, the company recently carried out a lucrative asset play with a 14-year-old capesize.

As TradeWinds reported earlier this month, Martinos is believed to have sold to China’s Agricore Shipping the 177,800-dwt Seamate (built 2010) for between $26m and $26.4m.

The Greek owner had purchased that ship during the bulker market blues of 2016 from Taiwan’s Sincere Navigation, for just around $19m.

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Harry Papachristou contributed to this article