(Updates with demand forecast, analyst’s comment, shares starting in third paragraph.)
Jan. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Golar LNG Ltd., the operator of liquefied natural gas ships led by billionaire John Fredriksen, took full ownership of a 35-year-old tanker and reactivated another built two years earlier as rents rise to records.
Buying the remaining 50 percent stake in the Gandria, built in 1977, from a Bluewater Energy Services BV affiliate cost $19.5 million, Hamilton, Bermuda-based Golar said today in a statement. Golar also said it will reactivate the 1975-built Hilli by the end of March after $15 million of improvements at Keppel Shipyard Ltd. in Singapore.
Demand for seaborne LNG will swell by the equivalent of 16 to 21 vessels this year and 22 to 26 ships in 2013 as the fleet expands by 28 vessels, Oslo-based Arctic Securities ASA estimates. Ninety-one percent of the fleet will be at work this year and 94 percent in 2013, Arctic analyst Erik Nikolai Stavseth said.
“We view the opportunistic deal by Golar LNG as a clear sign of the current strength in the LNG shipping market,” he said in an e-mailed report today. A vessel built in the 1970s or ’80s was chartered for a year at more than $100,000 a day, according to Stavseth, who cited unnamed “industry sources.”
Golar climbed 2.9 percent to 253.3 kroner by 12:32 p.m. in Oslo trading, increasing the company’s market value to 20.2 billion kroner ($3.4 billion). The stock has slipped 4 percent this year after almost tripling in 2011.
Golar has received bids to charter the Hilli, according to the statement. The company said it will decide “within the next few weeks” whether the Gandria, which has been out of service since September 2008, will be used for trading, storage or conversion to a facility that returns LNG to a gaseous state. LNG is natural gas chilled to liquid form.
Daily rates for LNG tankers will rise to $165,000 this year and $180,000 in 2013, Stavseth said. The cost to hire a carrier for a year rose to a record $150,000 a day last month, according to Oslo-based investment bank Pareto Securities AS.
Taking control of the Gandria was “an opportunistic deal at a price level we find very attractive,” Doug Arnell, Golar’s chief executive officer, said in the statement. The ships “will secure additional earnings growth for our company in the next quarters while we are waiting for our first newbuildings to come out in 2013,” he said.
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