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‘Cool Company’ launch stalled due to LNG spot market slump

A slump in the spot market for LNG carriers can be blamed for stalling the plans of three prominent LNG carrier owners to launch The Cool Company. The proposed new entity had hoped to raise money on the Oslo OTC market by the end of last year

But plans to create a combined fleet of 16 LNG carriers from the fleets of Golar LNG, Awilco LNG and TMS Cardiff Gas are still alive, awaiting a new market window

THREE owners of liquefied natural gas carriers have postponed plans to launch a new joint owning entity focused on the spot market.

Golar LNG, fellow Norway-based owner Awilco LNG and Greece-based TMS Cardiff Gas were last year working to launch The Cool Company, as Lloyd’s List reported last December.

Sources from the project confirmed that the owners had hoped to unveil the new owning company to investors before the end of last year to capitalise on what was then a red-hot spot market for LNG carriers.

They were looking to raise about $150m through a share offering on the Norwegian over-the-counter market with a likely bid for a senior stock market listing further down the line.

The project has stalled because the short-term charter market has slumped since the end of the year, forcing the prospective partners to bide their time and await a more robust market backdrop.

“We missed the window, but things will turn,” said one of the new company’s backers.

There is no suggestion that any of the three prospective major shareholders in The Cool Company have jumped ship and there appears to be continuing belief in the thesis of forming a large player oriented towards the evolving spot market in the LNG sector.

The trio has agreed between them to contribute a fleet of 16 modern LNG carriers. Golar was ready to spin off 10 of its vessels, with Awilco contributing its two units and the other four coming from the fleet managed by TMS Cardiff Gas, part of the George Economou group.

The TMS-managed vessels earmarked for the venture are a 2014-built quartet majority-owned by US private equity company MattlinPatterson in partnership with Economou interests.

It is believed to be the second time that the project — which may at one point have comprised a slightly different line-up of owners — has seen the market slip away shortly before its intended launch.

By last November, the steadily emerging LNG spot market, surging demand from new buyers and increased production had pushed rates for large modern LNG carriers to an all-time high, with some fixtures of well over $150,000 a day.

Some analysts speculated that daily rates could sail as high as $250,000, providing a perfect backdrop to The Cool Company’s debut.

Instead, unwinding of congestion at Chinese LNG terminals and a milder than expected winter in the Far East were among a number of factors that gradually undermined the market.

At present, typical daily rates being earned by modern tri-fuel diesel electric propulsion vessels are said to be about $65,000 to $75,000.

“Broadly speaking spot rates have halved since late last year,” one independent LNG shipping executive told Lloyd’s List. “Everyone is waiting to see what will happen, but there are more projects coming on line this year, particularly in the US, and so within the year the excess capacity should be soaked up and the market will get tighter again.”

As well as latest spot fixture rates, The Cool Company and its promoters will likely be keeping a close watch on the valuation of Flex LNG, the Oslo-listed LNG vehicle now controlled by John Fredriksen.

Although its fleet on the water only comprises four LNG carriers, with more deliveries due this year, it is as close as the market has to a test of investor sentiment towards a spot-focused LNG carrier business.

Flex LNG’s share price spiked to about $15 last October but fell under the impact of the spot market slump and has recently been trading at just above $11.

The Cool Company should not be confused with the Cool Pool, a chartering pool for spot and shorter period fixtures that currently has vessels from GasLog and Golar LNG as members.

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