November 29, 2018 / 1:23 PM / 20 days ago

Bidders line up for UAE-based Stanford Marine Group - sources

DUBAI, Nov 29 (Reuters) - Gulf Navigation Holding, Tristar Group, Hineni Capital and BT Investment are among bidders for Dubai-based marine services firm Stanford Marine Group (SMG), sources familiar with the matter said. Banks now control SMG, which operates offshore supply vessels for the oil and gas industry, after it struggled to meet terms of its debt obligations following a steep fall in chartering rates.

Neither SMG nor the bidders named by the sources responded to requests for comment.

SMG is 51 percent owned by a fund managed by Dubai-based private equity firm Abraaj, which is in provisional liquidation after a row with investors over the use of their money in a $1 billion healthcare fund. Abraaj denies any wrongdoing.

Abu Dhabi-based Waha Capital owns the remaining 49 percent stake.

Abraaj’s joint provisional liquidators declined to comment. Waha did not respond to a request for comment.

Creditors of SMG are compiling a shortlist of the bids in consultation with PwC, which is acting as adviser, two of the sources said.

The creditors include Noor Bank, Barwa Bank, Ajman Bank , United Arab Bank, Qatar Islamic Bank and First Gulf Bank, which is part of First Abu Dhabi Bank,

Any sale of SMG could leave banks with a significant haircut because the firm’s debt outstrips its equity, two of the three sources said.

One of the sources said the bids were either acquisition offers involving buying out the creditors and leaving SMG debt free, or offers to restructure the debt by taking shares in the company, injecting capital and providing funds to modernise SMG’s fleet.

Abraaj had been considering listing SMG or selling it since 2013. But the firm was hit by the collapse in oil prices in 2015, which led to a steep fall in chartering rates and a decline in projects.

One of the sources said interest in SMG had revived partly because of the possibility of an uptick in charter rates if oil prices remained more buoyant.

Editing by Edmund Blair

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