Japanese dry bulk shipper files for bankruptcy

Japanese bulk carrier Daiichi Chuo Kisen Kaisha said on Tuesday it had filed for protection from creditors – the second shipper to do so this month – with analysts predicting more failures if the market for dry freight continues to slump.

The shipping industry has been hit hard by the global commodities meltdown with the dry freight market near six-year lows and rates for large ships carrying iron ore and coal barely covering operating costs this year.

Daiichi Chuo said it had been unable to make ends meet on ships it had chartered or finance ships it had ordered, leaving it and a wholly owned subsidiary with a combined 176.9 billion yen ($1.5 billion) in liabilities – a figure it said could rise.

The shipper, which has suffered four straight years of losses, is set to be delisted on Oct. 30. That would be a rare case of listed corporate failure since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe returned to power in 2012 with aggressive policies to boost the economy.

The move follows private equity-backed Global Maritime Investments Cyprus Ltd’s filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the United States on Sept. 15.

“If such a market is sustained we can expect a few more companies to be in line,” said Jayendu Krishna, director at Drewry Maritime Advisors.

Shares in other Japanese shippers tumbled on the news with Mitsui OSK Lines Ltd, Daiichi Chuo’s biggest shareholder, sliding 7.7 percent. Traders said, however, that the filing would be a relief for Mitsui OSK as it had had to prop up Daiichi Chuo in the past with capital injections.

Mitsui OSK, which owns 16.6 percent of Daiichi Chuo, said it would book an extraordinary loss of about 25 billion yen in the July-September quarter.

Despite the filings, some market experts said a rebound in dry bulk could be swift.

“I agree dry bulk looks gloomy but we feel we’re much closer to the end of this part of a downcycle than we are to the beginning,” said Martin Rowe, managing director of Clarksons Platou Asia, a shipping services firm, in Hong Kong.

The news came as Asian commodity stocks were battered after shares in Glencore Plc fell almost 30 percent and closed at a record low on Monday over concerns it was not doing enough to cut its debt to withstand a prolonged fall in global metals prices.

  

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