Shipbroking M&A Heating Up – ICAP In Talks With Howe Robinson

bulk carrier ship shipping
File photo (c) Shutterstock/Volodymyr Kyrylyuk

By Naomi Christie

Nov. 19 (Bloomberg) — ICAP Plc said it’s in talks to combine its shipbroking unit with Howe Robinson Group Pte. Ltd.

The newly formed company is set to be operating in next year’s second quarter, London-based ICAP, the world’s largest broker of transactions between banks, said today in a statement. The shipbroking unit has more than 230 workers worldwide in areas including wet and dry cargo chartering and iron-ore derivatives, its website shows.

Clarkson Plc, the biggest global shipbroker, said last week it’s in talks to purchase Norwegian competitor Platou. Braemar Shipping Services Plc and ACM Shipping Group Plc merged in July. The Baltic Dry Index, a gauge of rates to haul minerals and grains by sea, is down 86 percent from its level at the end of 2007, before the world financial crisis and recession caused demand to shrink at the same time that the fleet expanded.

“It’s a symptom of a prolonged weak market” said Nigel Prentis, head of consultancy at Hartland Shipping Services Ltd. in London, who has 33 years’ experience in the shipping industry. “By combining forces, they’re creating economies of scale and wider market coverage.”

Daily average charter rates for Capesize ships, the largest iron-ore carriers, peaked at $233,988 in June 2008, according to the Baltic Exchange. That compares with $22,477 now. Supertankers carrying 2 million-barrel cargoes of crude oil on the benchmark Saudi Arabia-to-Japan voyage were making more than $170,000 a day in July 2008, against $37,336 now.

Howe Robinson was started in London in 1883 and now has more than 100 brokers in six offices worldwide, specializing in dry cargo and container shipbroking, its website shows.

ICAP fell in London trading after reporting lower first- half profit. The stock slid 8 percent to 395.2 pence at 12:35 p.m. local time, giving the company a market value of 2.56 billion pounds ($4 billion).

Copyright 2014 Bloomberg.