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Frontline focused on fleet growth

Bermudian-based oil tanker operator Frontline Ltd is continuing to grow its fleet after profits plunged in the first quarter.

The company announced net income of $27 million for the first three months of the year and a cash dividend of 15 cents per share.

But with chief executive officer Robert Hvide Macleod citing growth opportunities in a “historically low asset price environment”, Frontline ramped up plans to boost its 55-vessel fleet.

Notably it secured $221 million in financing, half each from Credit Suisse and ING, to help finance four new tankers.

Frontline said boosted its growth plans by ordering two newbuildings scheduled to be delivered during December 2018 and April 2019 and obtained options for two additional sister vessels scheduled to be delivered during August and November 2019 from HHI, Korea at $79.8 million per vessel.

Mr Macleod said: “Notwithstanding near-term pressure on crude tanker rates, we believe the market will ultimately return to balance as demand for crude oil continues to increase and vessel scrapping will begin to offset the negative effect of newbuilding deliveries.

“The recent market weakness and other factors have contributed to a historically low asset price environment that has presented us with opportunities to acquire modern tonnage at attractive prices.”

Mr Macleod added that the company was divesting older vessels — it has terminated the charters for six ageing tankers, “vessels which have put pressure on our earnings lately and particularly in the first quarter”.

Mr Macleod said: “As we have stated before, older vessels are increasingly difficult to trade, a fact that is amplified in a softer rate environment. In the last 12 months, we have taken steps to both grow and modernise our fleet through six resale purchases and newbuilding contracts.

“We will continue to strive to create value for our shareholders by expanding our fleet through accretive transactions.

Frontline has been trying to merge with another island-based tanker operator, DHT Holdings, but has been repeatedly rebuffed by the DHT board.

Mr Macleod said: “Notwithstanding any potential outcome related to our proposal to effect a business combination with DHT, there are many opportunities to continue our strategy of fleet growth and renewal, and we are confident in our ability to execute on this strategy.”

First-quarter profit plunged to $27 million from $79 million in the same period in 2016. Operating revenues dipped to $177 million — a fall of $50 million from last year's three months.

Shareholders' equity as of March 31 this year climbed to $3.15 billion from $2.97 billion at the end of 2016.

Expansion plans: Bermudian oil tanker operator Frontline has secured an extra $221 million of financing to support the growth and rejuvenation of its fleet

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Published May 30, 2017 at 11:27 am (Updated May 30, 2017 at 11:27 am)

Frontline focused on fleet growth

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