OCTOBER 8, 2014 — Two dry bulk companies in the John Fredriksen empire, Golden Ocean Group Limited (OSE: GOGL) and Knightsbridge Shipping Limited (Nasdaq: VLCCF), have entered an agreement that will see them merge. Knightsbridge will be the surviving legal entity, but the company will be renamed Golden Ocean Group Limited on completion of the merger.
As a result of the expected merger, the combined company would become one of the world's leading dry bulk companies with a modern fleet of 72 vessels, of which 36 are newbuildings under construction.
Commenting on the transaction, Ola Lorentzon, Chairman and CEO of Knightsbridge, and Chairman of Golden Ocean Group Limited, John Fredriksen, stated: "By combining Knightsbridge and Golden Ocean we seek to create a company with a unique fleet and strong balance sheet and build one of the world's leading dry bulk shipping companies. With the current weakness in the dry bulk market, we believe there will be attractive consolidation opportunities going forward. Our ambition is to be a clear market leader both from a financial and operational perspective. Upon an expected recovery of the dry bulk market and as newbuilds are brought into the fleet, we believe the combined company will generate significant cash flow. The intention is to pay out excess cash as dividends in the Board's discretion."
The merger is subject to approval by the shareholders of Golden Ocean and Knightsbridge in separate special general meetings expected to be held in December 2014 or January 2015 and the merger is expected to close shortly thereafter. Completion of the merger is also subject to the execution of certain definitive documents, customary closing conditions and regulatory approvals.
Knightsbridge's ordinary shares are currently listed for trading on the NASDAQ Global Select Market ("NASDAQ"), and Golden Ocean's ordinary shares are currently listed for trading on the Oslo Stock Exchange (the "OSE") and the Singapore Stock Exchange. In accordance with the Merger Agreement, the Combined Company will apply for a secondary listing of its ordinary shares on the OSE, and expects that after the merger its ordinary shares will be listed for trading on both NASDAQ and the OSE.
Shareholders in Golden Ocean at the time the merger is completed will receive shares in Knightsbridge as merger consideration. Under to the merger agreement, one share in Golden Ocean will give the right to receive 0.13749 shares in Knightsbridge, and Knightsbridge will issue a total of 61.5 million shares to shareholders in Golden Ocean as merger consideration.
Upon the effectiveness of the merger, the 3.07% Golden Ocean Group Limited Senior Unsecured Convertible Bond Issue 2014/2019 that was issued by Golden Ocean in January 2014 will be converted into a convertible bond in the combined company pursuant to the terms of the bond agreement.
In connection with the special general meetings, Hemen Holding Limited, a company indirectly controlled by trusts established by John Fredriksen for the benefit of his immediate family, and certain of its affiliates, (including Frontline 2012 Ltd.) have entered into voting agreements to vote all of their respective shares in favor of the merger. Approval of the merger by the shareholders of each company requires the affirmative vote of those shareholders, as of the record date, representing 75% of the ordinary shares of that company which are voted at its special general meeting.
After the merger is completed it is expected that Hemen and its affiliates, collectively will own approximately 39% of the shares and votes in the combined company, which includes Hemen's indirect ownership in the shares owned by Frontline 2012 Ltd. After the second step of the Frontline 2012 transaction is completed in March 2015, this will increase to approximately 42%.
Mr. John Fredriksen, Mr. Gert-Jan van der Akker and Mrs. Kate Blankenship will be added to the Board of Directors of the Combined Company after the merger is completed. Mr. Ola Lorentzon will continue as Chairman of the Board for the Combined Company. Mr. Gert-Jan van der Akker is Senior Head of Region at Louis Dreyfus Commodities ("LDC"). Prior to joining LDC earlier this year, Mr. Gert- Jan van der Akker had 27 years of experience at Cargill where his last position was a platform leader for the global energy, transportation and metals platform.
The current corporate management team and employees of Golden Ocean, which currently is the commercial manager of the Knightsbridge dry bulk fleet, will manage the combined company. Herman Billung, who currently serves as the principal executive officer of Golden Ocean, will serve as the principal executive officer of the Combined Company, and Birgitte Ringstad Vartdal, who currently serves as the principal financial officer of Golden Ocean, will serve as the principal financial officer of the Combined Company.
After the merger is completed, the Combined Company expects to have a fleet of 46 Capesize vessels, 10 ice class Panamax vessels, 8 Kamsarmax vessels and 8 Supramax vessels, of which 36 are newbuildings under construction. In addition the Combined Company expects to have a small number of leased vessels and one vessel owned through a joint venture.