stx pan ocean

STX Pan Ocean’s Ocean Vanguard, image: STX

STX Group is in talks about selling its controlling stake in STX Pan Ocean Co., South Korea’s largest dry-bulk ship operator, as it tries to raise 2.5 trillion won ($2.3 billion) from asset sales to pare debts.

Talks are under way with domestic and international investors, the South Korean group said in an e-mailed statement today. It didn’t elaborate on the potential buyers for the 36 percent stake, which is worth about $250 million at market prices based on data compiled by Bloomberg.

Pan Ocean surged by the 15 percent daily limit in Seoul trading. STX is selling assets and working with creditor Korea Development Bank on ways to improve its finances after a slump in dry-bulk freight rates and a collapse in demand for new vessels hit earnings at Seoul-based Pan Ocean and the group’s shipbuilding businesses.

STX also said it’s in the final stage of talks to sell its 51 percent stake in STX OSV Holdings Ltd., the world’s biggest maker of oil-rig support vessels. Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri SpA is among final bidders, people with knowledge of the matter said in April.

The group plans to focus on shipbuilding, energy and construction by selling Pan Ocean, it said. Pan Ocean operates a fleet of about 400 owned and chartered ships, including dry-bulk vessels, container ships and tankers.

“We have decided that it will be difficult for the group to continue stable management of the shipbuilding and shipping businesses,” STX said. “We will try to regain market confidence by restructuring.”

Rates Slump

Pan Ocean has posted four straight quarterly losses as excess capacity in the global fleet and an economic slowdown in China damps shipping rates. The Baltic Dry Index, a global gauge of dry-bulk freight costs, has fallen 48 percent this year.

The shipping company rose to 3,740 won at the close of trading in Seoul. It’s also listed in Singapore. The company has a market value of about $700 million, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

STX’s three main companies, Pan Ocean, STX Offshore & Shipbuilding Co. and STX Corp. have 1.46 trillion won in bonds and loans maturing next year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The group’s companies are interlinked through cross- shareholdings.

The group in October raised 360 billion won by agreeing to sell a 43 percent stake in unit STX Energy Co. to Orix Corp.

- Kyunghee Park, Copyright 2012 Bloomberg.
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