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Korean and Taiwanese Shipping Lines receive Bail-Outs

by Gavin Magrath (Magrath's International Legal Counsel)

On January 25th the Government of the Republic of Korea announced a bailout package worth approximately USD$660 million for Hyundai Merchant Marine Co. Ltd., the Wall Street Journal has reported.

Operating approximately 140 vessels, HMM is in fact a slightly larger operation than the recently bankrupt Hanjin Line, but as many of these are bulk or LNG vessels, HMM weighs in at about 15th in global container traffic (2.2%). HMM posted a loss of over USD$500 million in the first 9 months of 2016, the latest in a series of annual losses stemming largely from lower revenues on low freight rates.

According to The Australian the deal will see Korea Shipping Company, a new state financing firm, purchasing an undisclosed number of containerships and leasing them back to HMM for lower rates.

The timing of the move is somewhat strange, as it closely follows HMM's December announcement of ambitious growth plans, including a target of 5% share in the container transport market and the acquisition of a significant share in Long Beach terminals.

The announcement also comes only 2 months after the government of Taiwan announced $1.8 billion recapitalization plan for it's shipping industry, including Evergreen Marine and Yang Min Marine Transport Corp.

According to Drewry Financial, Yang Min is "the next Hanjin", with a debt/equity ratio over 400%. The state owns about 30% of Yang Min, which is privately held, and that stake ; that stake is likely on the increase. With 84 containerships and 17 bulk carriers, Yang Min is Taiwan's second-largest container carrier and 8th globally.

January 27, 2017

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