Bourbon Chairman Eyes Asia Partnerships After Proposed Takeover

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May 20, 2014

The Bourbon Liberty 201 provides support to the FPSO Azurite (Prosafe) in the Gulf of Guinea, image: Bourbon

By Tara Patel

May 20 (Bloomberg) — Bourbon SA Chairman Jacques de Chateauvieux said his proposed takeover offer that gets under way today valuing the French shipowner at 1.8 billion euros ($2.5 billion) will prove key to forging future partnerships in Asia.

The offer of 24 euros a share which runs through June 23 is aimed at consolidating ownership ahead of a planned push into a wider range of deepwater oilfield services, especially in Asia, he said in an interview yesterday.

“We didn’t want to be dependent on what was happening on the market,” de Chateauvieux said. “The partnerships that we want to form are with groups that are often run by families so it’s important to have clear control.”

Bourbon’s vessels service offshore oil and natural gas platforms as well as wind farms in 45 countries. The chairman’s closely held Jaccar Holdings, which already holds 26 percent of the company, is bidding for at least 50 percent and will team up if necessary with de Chateauvieux’s brother Henri, who owns 8 percent mostly through his Mach-Invest International.

In the more than three decades since he took the helm, he has transformed Bourbon, founded in 1948 by plantation owners on the island of Reunion off East Africa, from a rum and sugar company into a shipowner serving oil producers such as Total SA as well as the French navy. Bourbon has spent billions of euros since 2008 on expanding its fleet.

Personal Relations

“Future strategy will include new partnerships, especially in Asia where personal relations between bosses is very important,” he said in the interview. “We will also work with new types of collaborators because we will be doing new things.”

The future for Bourbon lies with “less vessels and more service,” he said. That could include repairing, maintaining and installing equipment, work that is currently being done by other companies using Bourbon vessels.

Bourbon’s growth model in recent years of fleet expansion to gain market share “has limits,” de Chateauvieux said. Details about the expansion into new areas will be unveiled at the end of the year, he said.

Jaccar’s tender for shares comes against a backdrop of oil explorers including Total cutting investment and pledging to lower project costs. “The industry’s life is at stake if we don’t control costs,” Total’s Chief Executive Officer Christophe de Margerie has repeated in recent months.

“Oil companies will be more selective in their projects but for the moment offshore isn’t affected,” de Chateauvieux said. “We are a small but inevitable link in the spending chain.”

Bourbon’s planned expansion in Asia is aimed at capturing growth in demand for fossil fuels in the region as well as burgeoning development of deep offshore oil and gas projects, he said.

Copyright 2014 Bloomberg.


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