Buying bulkers, tankers, container ships or gas carriers from private sponsors is nothing unusual for public shipping companies.

Top Ships, however, is set to extend the practice to leisure craft.

The US-listed owner of eight modern crude and product tankers disclosed in its annual report that it is “in advanced discussions to acquire an interest in a company that owns a 47-metre mega-yacht” from an affiliate of its chief executive and controlling shareholder Evangelos Pistiolis.

“We believe market conditions are favourable for investments in this sector and are evaluating additional similar investment opportunities,” the company said in a 20-F filing.

If the acquisition of the unidentified ship goes ahead, Top Ships expects to fund it with cash on hand.

“Any mega-yacht we acquire is expected to be employed on short-term charters,” the company said.

Technical and commercial management would be entrusted with Central Shipping Inc — the private, Pistiolis-affiliated company that already provides day-to-day management to Top Ships’ tanker fleet.

The 20-F states that even though Top Ships and Central Shipping “do not have experience in the mega-yacht sector”, they believe they have acquired “relevant expertise and qualifications” from their tanker operations.

Under construction

According to Central Group’s website, however, the company had been “active in yachting via the acquisition and management of large and mega-yachts” after 2006, in projects with a total value exceeding $150m.

One current project described on the Central Group’s website seems to closely match the acquisition that Top Ships envisages — a single mega-yacht under construction “at a top European shipyard with expected delivery in 2023”.

Apart from shipping and yachting, the Central Group is also active in real estate and aviation.

‘Mega-yacht experience’

“Mega-yacht experience combined with expertise from shipping and high-end real estate development have been combined in the custom design of the interior and exterior spaces as well as the bridge and engine room based on a home-like technical specification,” the Central Group said.

Pistiolis and his family control 73% of Top Ships’ common shares and 100% of preferred shares, conferring nearly 96% of the voting power in the company.

The company saw rising interest and finance costs eat into its 2023 profit, with net income dropping 68% year-on-year to $6.1m.

As of 31 December, Top Ships had $40m in cash and cash equivalents, $4m of which are classified as restricted cash.