LONDON Dec 21 Royal Bank of Scotland is
close to selling at least $600 million worth of shipping loans
from its portfolio, two sources familiar with the matter told
RBS, which is more than 70 percent state-owned, is still in
the throes of a restructuring, which includes asset sales, job
cuts and tackling multi-billion dollar charges to settle
litigation and pay regulatory fines for past misconduct.
The sources said buyers of the various shipping loan
tranches included Japanese financial services firm Orix Corp
, Germany's Berenberg Bank, Bank of America Merrill
Lynch and asset manager Davidson Kempner.
Bank of America and Berenberg declined to comment. Orix
could not be reached for comment, while Davidson Kempner did not
immediately respond to a request for comment.
RBS declined to comment.
The loans, which primarily come from RBS's Greek shipping
business which was valued earlier this year at $3 billion, are
being sold in various parcels, one of the sources said.
"Discreet sales talks have been going on for a while," the
RBS announced in September it had begun winding down its
global shipping finance business, abandoning efforts at that
time to sell it off during a worsening downturn across the
Around 90 percent of world trade is transported by sea but
the shipping industry is stuck in its deepest slump on record,
as international trade slows and freight rates fall in a market
flooded with too many vessels.
German banks, which provide a quarter of the world's $400
billion of outstanding shipping debt, are struggling to recoup
their loans, while many other lenders are looking at ending or
reducing their exposure.
Sources had told Reuters earlier this year that Orix and
Berenberg were among potential suitors that had looked at RBS's
Greek shipping business.
The Edinburgh-based bank which has had eight years of annual
losses was rescued with a more than 45 billion pound ($55.54
billion) bailout at the height of the financial crisis.
Last month, RBS was the biggest failure in the Bank of
England's annual stress test, partly because of a mounting legal
bill and the difficulty it has selling off unwanted assets.
RBS's overall exposure to shipping exposure was 5.514
billion pounds at the end of September, down from 6.765 billion
pounds at the end of June and 6.776 billion pounds at the end of
2015, RBS data showed.
RBS had previously been a top lender to the global shipping
industry and its Greek office played a pivotal role.
($1 = 0.8102 pounds)
(Additional reporting by Arno Schuetze in Frankfurt and Taiga
Uranaka in Tokyo; Editing by Greg Mahlich)