With an ownership stake of 11.5 percent of the shares in Danish carrier Norden, Norwegian family-owned fund Rasmussengruppen is following developments closely from its office in Kristiansand when the markets for dry bulk collapse, which has most certainly been the case recently.
Yesterday, Monday, Rasmussengruppen decided to terminate a shareholder agreement with the other major shareholder in the carrier. More on that later.
At first, the general crisis in shipping has not made the family stay completely out of the markets, and Rasmussengruppen recently invested in Norwegian-operated tanker carrier DHT Holdings by acquiring a 5.4 percent stake.
There are opportunities in the tanker market, says CEO Dag Rasmussen when asked about why DHT Holdings represents a solid investment:
"Shortly put, it's because the balance between supply and demand looks profitable in the years to come in tanker. The orderbook is small," he tells ShippingWatch, adding that the group is in contact with several brokerage firms such as Platou and Fearnleys, which evaluate the markets.
"We haven't been looking at DHT very long, but their exposure is clean and they have a fairly new fleet in the major tanker segment. This is first and foremost a financial investment for us, and we have plenty of financial investments. We like to take positions in markets that are moving in a good direction, then we'll hold that position for some years, and then we'll see what we do from there," he says.
Is the investment in DHT Holdings a sign that you plan to invest further in shipping?
"No, it's not. It's more about the fact that when see an opportunity, we'll seize it and follow it for some years, and then we'll see what happens."
A good investment?
Norden has been hit by a weak dry bulk market in the last few years. Has this been a good investment for you?
"It's been very up and down. Now it's down, but I'll have to take a closer look at the numbers in order to answer that. The volatility is part of the reason we don't want to have the entire family fortune placed in shipping," says Dag Rasmussen.
He declines to comment on whether the fund will hold on to the investment going forward.
On Monday, after ShippingWatch's interview with Dag Rasmussen, Norden issued a brief to the stock exchange stating that the carrier's two major shareholders - A/S Motortramp and Rasmussengruppen - had terminated their mutual agreement, which barred the shareholders from divesting their stakes to a third party without first making an offer to each other. In an email, Dag Rasmussen tells ShippingWatch:
"We had a shareholder agreement with A/S Motortramp which has been in place for 10 years, and it's only now that we've been able to terminate it with a notice period of 365 days. This means that the agreement will be effective for another year, starting toda (Monday)."
Dag Rasmussen does not elaborate on why Rasmussengruppen decided to terminate the agreement.
Rasmussengruppen hails from the remains of a carrier, established in 1936 by Dag Rasmussen's grandfather, Einar Rasmussen. After the Second World War, the carrier was a significant player in international shipping, focusing on tanker and dry bulk - the same two segments the fund is involved in today.
Grew up in shipping
Dag Rasmussen himself also has a background in shipping with a degree in marine engineering from NTH and a Master's degree in Shipping Trade and Finance from City University London. Following this, he spent two years working for Kreditkassen's (today Nordea) shipping division in London.
"But after I started working with the family business, the company started to divest more and more. But my father spent an entire life in shipping," he says, laughing.
The annual report 2013 shows that the fund achieved a result before taxes of around USD 292.8 million, compared to USD 160.2 million in 2012.