Bourbon Inks Vessel Sale, Charter Agreement

Paris-based offshore marine service company Bourbon has inked an agreement with commodities and energy shipping firm ICBC Financing Leasing (China) for the sale of 51 vessels for up to $1.5 billion and to lease them back on a bareboat charter for a 10-year period.

The first phase of the program involves 24 existing vessels and 27 vessels under construction; these are scheduled for delivery within 14 months. The vessels are valued at $2.5 billion.

The agreement will help Bourbon reduce debt as it invests in a large fleet of high-performance offshore vessels. Based on market price estimates, Bourbon expects to realize a capital gain of approximately 12 percent of the total value of the vessel sale.

The vessels will be sold at market price with a vendor loan with a $116 million maximum. The agreement also calls for a bareboat vessel lease at a fixed rate of more than 10 years of 10.66 percent of the sale price. ICBC will have right of first refusal if ICBC sells the vessels during the lease period.

"This operation, related to an innovative and highly productive fleet that has already proved itself to its customers, reflects the overall trust in Bourbon through the industry as a vessel operator," said Bourbon CEO Christian Lefevre in a statement.

The operation will not impact the company's fleet standardization strategy as the vessels in the bareboat lease come from Bourbon's vessel series.

The deal is expected to close within two months of its signing following completion of each party procedure, Bourbon said in a statement. Bourbon would operate 230 supply vessels, including 54 under bareboat charter, following the deal's completion. Bourbon had a fleet of 458 vessels, including supply vessels and crewboats, as of Dec. 31, 2012.

Bourbon's agreement with ICBC is the first financial phase of the company's plan for future growth, "Transforming for Beyond". The initial phase of this project will allow Bourbon to prepare for its growth plan beyond 2015 with stronger financial backing, Lefevre commented.

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