Shipping Bank HSH Nordbank Invites Indicative Bids from Potential Buyers

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ReutersFRANKFURT, Jan 23 (Reuters) – Shipping finance provider HSH Nordbank has launched its planned sale, inviting expressions of interest from potential buyers, the bank organising the process said on Monday.

HSH’s owners – the German states of Schleswig-Holstein and Hamburg jointly hold 85 percent – have to privatise the bank under European state-aid rules by the end of February 2018, and have hired Citigroup to organise the process.

Fellow state-backed regional bank NordLB is planning to make an indicative offer and to take a look at HSH’s books, two people close to the matter said, adding the Hanover-based lender was unlikely to bid for all of HSH’s assets.

NordLB, which like HSH is weighed down by its large exposure to the struggling shipping sector, has said it wants to reduce its ship loan portfolio to 12-14 billion euros ($13-15 billion) from a current 17 billion by 2019.

HSH Nordbank and NordLB declined to comment.

In late 2016, HSH managers also held meetings on the planned privatisation with Chinese banks such as Bank of China , as well as buyout firms including Apollo and Lone Star.

First-round bids are due by the end of March, Citi said on Monday, with the sellers’ clear preference being for a sale of all of HSH in one go.

HSH, which had total assets of 73 billion euros as of September and made a pretax of 183 million euros in the first nine months of 2016, sought backing from its owners after risky assets turned sour in 2008.

It got hit further by the slump in global trade after the financial crisis and the core bank currently has 7 billion euros in ship loans on its books.

The European Commission, HSH and its owners negotiated for years over a plan to restore HSH to health and avoid future state aid.

($1 = 0.9302 euros) (Reporting by Andreas Kröner and Maria Sheahan; Writing by Arno Schuetze; Editing by Mark Potter)

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