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The German shipowner Rickmers Group, established in 1834, is to file for insolvency after its bankers “surprisingly denied” approval of its financial restructuring.
In a statement Rickmers, which operates a fleet of 114 vessels, including 80 containerships, of which seven 13,100 teu vessels are on long-term charter to Maersk Line, said it had been “forced to file for insolvency without undue delay”.
The company said: “HSH Nordbank has surprisingly informed Rickmers Holding that the board of HSH Nordbank has rejected the credit applications of Rickmers Group and denied approval to the term sheet dated 19 April 2017 and rejected further negotiations of the restructuring.”
Under the restructuring plan HSH Nordbank would have become the major shareholder with fifth-generation family owner Bertram Rickmers giving up 75.1% of his 100% ownership of the shipping group.
“As a result,” said the statement, “the term sheet of 19 April 2017, on the basis of which the bondholders’ meeting was convened cannot be implemented anymore.”
It added that the second bondholders’ meeting scheduled for today (1 June) would now only vote on electing a joint representative of creditors as the company entered into receivership.
“The management board of Rickmers Holding AG strives for restructuring in self-administration, on the basis of continuation of business and vessel operations,” said the statement.
According to The Loadstar’s broker contacts in Hamburg the news of the demise of the iconic Rickmers Group has taken everybody by surprise and has sent massive shockwaves through the tight-knit shipping community.
Indeed, one Hamburg broker told The Loadstar that she originally thought that the announcement related to its affiliate, Singapore-headquartered Rickmers Maritime, which filed for bankruptcy in April after its creditors failed to approve a restructuring plan for its embattled panamax fleet.
Notwithstanding the charters to Maersk, Rickmers owns 26 other containerships ranging from panamax vessels of 5,000 teu down to a feedermax ship of 1,100 teu and has an orderbook for four handy feeder vessels of 1,900 teu a piece.
According to vesselsvalue.com data the live value of Rickmers’ owned fleet, which also includes four small dry bulk carriers and two vehicle carriers, is currently $661m, with a scrap value estimated at $245m and a value for the newbuilds put at $70m.
Through Rickmers’ maritime services segment it charters ships and provides ship management services for its own and third-party vessels, including several heavy lift and bulk ships.
According to its website Rickmers employs around 1,700 seafarers and 470 shore-based staff.
For 2016 Rickmers posted a loss of €341m and it is carrying a debt of some €1.5bn, some of which is at big ticket rates of nearly 9%.
Commenting on the surprise development Vessels Value lead analyst, Toby Yeabsley, told The Loadstar today that the collapse of Rickmers could bring a halt to the recent recovery in charter rates and ship asset values.
He said: “With such a large number of vessels entering into both the charter and sale and purchase markets, there is a potential for the recent growth in rates and values to stall.”
Nevertheless, Mr Yeabsley added that for owners that have easy access to finance and can move quickly they will be able to “snap up some great deals”.
He predicts that there may be some bulk buy deals, as was the case when Hanjin Shipping entered into receivership and Capital Maritime, Seaspan and KMTC all bought Hanjin vessels en bloc.