StealthGas Acquires New LPG Vessels
StealthGas Inc., a ship-owning company primarily serving the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) sector of the international shipping industry, announced today as part of its fleet expansion program the acquisition of two newbuilding LPG vessels.
Both vessels will be constructed in Japan. The first vessel is a 5,000cbm LPG carrier scheduled to be delivered in the fourth quarter of 2014; while the second vessel is a 3,500cbm LPG carrier scheduled to be delivered in the first quarter of 2015. This brings the total number of LPG carriers the Company expects to take delivery of from March 2014 to August 2015 to 17 for a total cost of approximately $345 million and the total value of its assets including the 17 vessels to approximately $1billion .
Deposits of $75 million have already been paid and the Company intends to fund the remaining capital expenditure of approximately $270 million through bank finance and available cash. The Company has concluded negotiations with banks for firm commitments to finance 13 of these vessels for an amount up to $185 million, and has received indicative offers for additional bank finance of approximately $50 million for the remaining vessels including the two vessels whose acquisitions were announced today. The Company expects to conclude the remaining financing arrangements within the current quarter. The Company has entered into negotiations with the financing banks with respect to credit facilities under which balloon payments of circa $33 million are scheduled to be repaid during 2014 and based on their indications received expects to conclude the refinancing of such credit facilities within the second quarter of 2014.
The Company also announced the conclusion of nine chartering arrangements for its LPG carriers. Six of them include purchase options by the charterer.
The average Time Charter Equivalent rate for all these extensions excluding the two 7,200cbm vessels is approximately $285,000 per month whereas the Time Charter Equivalent rate for the two 7,200cbm vessels is $335,000 per month.
With the above mentioned chartering arrangements charter coverage for the current fleet is elevated to 75% for 2014 and 41% for 2015. Three vessels are currently operating in the spot market. There are also three newbuilding vessels scheduled to enter the fleet in the second half of 2014 for which charters have not yet been arranged.
The Company has also announced the hiring of two senior executives. Mr. Stavros Papantonopoulos has joined the company as Finance Manager. As a result, Mr. Harry Vafias will assume the role of interim CFO replacing Mr. Constantinos Sistovaris. Mr Papantonopoulos was previously employed by Goldman Sachs in New York followed by Eurobank Properties S.A. and before joining the Company he was a senior analyst for a well known US shipping fund. In addition, Dr. Diamantis Andriotis has joined the company as Chief Technical Officer (CTO) to oversee the technical management of the growing fleet and vessels under construction. Dr Andriotis was technical manager at Stealth Maritime and holds a Doctorate degree in mechanical engineering from City University, while he is also a member of the technical committees of some of the leading classification societies.
Mr. Vafias commented “I would like to welcome both Mr. Papantonopoulos and Dr. Andriotis and believe that with their experience and vigor they will be valuable additions to our fast growing company. I would also like to thank Mr. Sistovaris for stepping in to provide his assistance at a time we needed to secure bank financing for our expanding fleet. We stay committed to growing this company further and in that respect have added two more eco newbuilds to our orderbook at a time when markets have been improving compared to the seasonal weakness experienced in previous quarters and now with 17 eco LPG carriers under construction with prompt deliveries we offer great optionality to our shareholders”.
STEALTHGAS INC, February 3, 2014