Global Banks Are Retreating From Lending to Shipping Companies
With international trade slowing, overcapacity plaguing ocean carriers, and freight rates hitting bottom, many banks are looking at the ocean shipping industry as a bad risk.
A slowing economy and increasing capital demands are cutting into bank profitability, and the banks want to improve their balance sheets by reducing their exposure to a distressed industry.
The Bank of Ireland is winding down its shipping business, Reuters reported, an effort the bank began in 2009. “Bank of Ireland no longer lends within the shipping finance sector and we have been winding down the portfolio,” the bank told the news agency. According to industry data, Bank of Ireland’s shipping financing peaked at nearly $2 billion before 2009. Reuters estimated its current shipping portfolio stands at less than $500 million.
Several banks in Europe and around the world are looking to exit the shipping industry. The South African bank and asset manager Investec recently decided it will not to take on any new shipping lending. Investec’s shipping portfolio was estimated to be around $1 billion at its peak.
In September, Royal Bank of Scotland said it was winding down its shipping business after decades of being a top lender to the industry. German banks, which hold around 25 percent of the $400 billion in global outstanding shipping debt are looking to ditch their loans. Reuters reported that Deutsche Bank was among more than 20 bidders in talks to buy a $3.4 billion loan portfolio, which included shipping debt, from its Hamburg-based competitor HSH Nordbank.
Meanwhile the German shipping group Marenave said two of its banks had rejected a loan restructuring plan, a move which could negatively impact the company’s future as a going concern.
Reuters reported that smaller banks as well are also reducing new lending to shipping, all of which means that shipping companies have fewer options for financing now, when theymight need it most.
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