Park Kee-hoon
Park Kee-hoon. Photo: SM Line

SM Merchant Marine (also known as SM Line) has confirmed plans to launch a liner service to the US east coast by acquiring more ships and containers with the proceeds of its initial public offering (IPO) this month.

CEO Park Kee-hoon (pictured above) said on Friday that, by 2024, SM Line would be operating 18 routes – five transpacific and 13 intra-Asia – compared with the company’s current 13 lanes, comprising four transpacific and nine intra-Asia.

SM Line will offer 33,844,220 shares on the Korea Exchange’s secondary board, KOSDAQ, aiming to raise up to $722m. Half these shares are newly issued, and the price range is from KRW18,000 ($15.30) to KRW25,000 ($21.30) – actual pricing will be determined in a two-day book-building session ending today.

Public investors may subscribe to the shares from Thursday to Friday. NH Investment & Securities is the lead underwriter for the IPO.

Asked if the targeted stock price was too low, given that SM Line’s $267.8m net profit for H1 21 was well over double its full-year 2020 profit of $99m, Mr Park explained: “When we were assessing the pricing, we compared the stock prices of foreign shipping companies and compatriot shipping companies such as HMM, and, at that time, prices of shipping stocks were on a downward trend.”

SM Line’s current transpacific services are all to the west coast of North America and the company is eyeing an east coast service with calls to New York, Savannah and Charleston, citing increasing cargo demand. To handle the volume growth, SM Line plans to order 1,800 new containers over the next three years.

In collaboration with US and Canadian railway companies, SM Line also plans to offer intermodal services linking North American west coast ports to the inland areas.

Mr Park continued: “Regarding intra-Asia routes, we will maintain our competitiveness through the K-Alliance with HMM and Sinokor Merchant Marine. By 2025, we will increase our shipping capacity to 1.72m teu, and about $17m will be invested to respond to environmental regulations,” he added.

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