The two biggest shareholders in carrier Norden A/S - A/S Motortramp and Rasmussengruppen A/S - have together terminated their mutual agreement, according to a brief to the stock exchange on Monday.
The owners have for many years operated with a mutual agreement stating that the groups would not sell to a third party without first making an offer to each other.
A/S Motortramp owns 11,851,240 shares in Norden, corresponding to around 28.1 percent of the company's nominal share capital. Rasmussengruppen A/S owns 4,869,640 shares, approx. 11.5 percent of Norden's nominal share capital.
According to analysts ShippingWatch has spoken to, the fact that the major shareholders will no longer have to consult each other first if they want to divest their Norden shares could raise the question of whether the financially well-equipped dry bulk and tanker carrier could - in the long term - become an acquisition candidate, for instance for private equity funds.
"The shareholder agreement has been a straight-jacket, a typical clause that makes it very difficult for the other party to leave, in order to curb outside bids. As such, one might ask whether Norden could become a candidate for acquisition. Right now the share price is under significant pressure, at a low level, and this means that equity funds could become interested in the company, which doesn't have any debt and which operates a very large fleet," says one stock analyst.
Senior analyst at Sydbank, Jacob Pedersen, tells Ritzau Finans that the termination of the major shareholder agreement could enable Norden to start participating in a consolidation among the carriers:
"The door has till now been closed, but now it seems to be opened up after all," he tells Ritzau Finans, stressing that an actual consolidation of the carrier could still be very far off.
Norden: We haven't heard anything
Norden CFO Michael Tønnes Jørgensen tells ShippingWatch that the termination of the agreement between the two major shareholders will not impact daily operations at the carrier.
"This is a matter between the two major shareholders, where Motortramp has been with us for generations and Rasmussengruppen has been here since 2004. They're both good, solid shareholders," he says, adding:
"It's a formality, and the agreement remains effective for one year. We haven't received any notice that they are looking to divest."
In 2009, Rasmussengruppen reduced its stake from 21-22 percent to 11.5 percent today.
Until recently, Norden represented the only shipping investment for family-owned Rasmussengruppen, but approximately one week ago the fund acquired around five million shares in Norwegian supertanker player DHT Holdings, which has in the past year grown its fleet of VLCCs quite significantly and is currently the biggest supertanker-owner listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
The Norwegian investment group has kept a low public profile, but the group dates back to 1936 when shipowner Einar Rasmussen established a carrier that later became Rasmussengruppen, which has three business areas: financial investments, real estate and real estate development, and international shipping - with the latter portfolio now consisting of two companies.