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Anglo-Eastern and Univan - a merger with different goals than most

Peter Cremers (far right), executive chairman of Anglo-Eastern Univan
It is just over two weeks since Anglo-Eastern shook up the largely private world of ship management by merging with Univan. Sitting in Hong Kong on Wednesday with straight-talking Peter Cremers, now executive chairman of the newly merged Anglo-Eastern Univan, he declared himself “a happy man” with the result of six months of negotiations with Univan to form the newly merged entity.

And it being a merger, and not an acquisition (the two terms being used rather interchangeably these days) is something Cremers is very clear about, as can also be seen from the constitution of the board of the merged company.

Indeed the key drivers for the merger are different from most M&A deals, namely driving cost savings and synergies, which usually are in the forefront, but take a back seat in Cremer’s explanations. He sets out two factors that drove the merger, first continuing to build a committed ship management business with new shareholders, and second, succession planning with bringing in a new ceo from the Univan fold in the shape of the widely respected Bjorn Hojgaard.

On the first factor of having a new shareholder he says: “From that perspective the Univan shareholder is a very welcome shareholder in Anglo-Eastern because we are now all of us – we’re all committed to stay in this and bring forward the company.”

Explaining the second factor Cremers says: “At a shareholder and a management level it was no secret in the market that I was looking for a new ceo because we still have a lot of plans and we want younger people to take over from the old guard slowly.

“So we have recognised Bjorn as a very driven, dedicated ship management ceo and we felt very comfortable with him, and that’s also one of the drivers as we welcome a new ceo in the company.”

The two factors combine to create a merger, which he describes “a long term, committed ship management company run by professionals”.

The merger addresses a question asked in the market of what will happen to Anglo-Eastern if Cremers decides to retire, while he also remains part of the committed management as executive chairman for the foreseeable future.

“A lot have people have been asking ‘Peter what do you do if retire?’ Nothing is happening with the company, it remains as it is run by professionals,” he says.

Indeed of his own future he states: “I have committed myself as executive chairman and my duty is to make sure the company continues on the track it has been for the last 20 years, and we have good management team now.”

The vision for the merged company is one where the Univan brand is built up as a tanker manager in Hong Kong in tandem with Anglo-Eastern’s tanker focused management arm in Singapore.

“We’re going to keep the Univan name as trade name, as it is today and expand it as top level tanker manager in Hong Kong. This is not something is broken, this (Univan) is a properly functioning ship management office and there is no need to change that.”

For clients of Univan, a much smaller manager, coming into the much larger merged Anglo-Eastern Univan world could be a concern, but Cremers responds that the structure of Anglo-Eastern has been based on units of 20 – 40 ships.

“We were managing 500 ships before Univan came and I think we have shown to existing clients that this does not mean a loss of contact, or approachability. It has worked within the context of the old Anglo-Eastern and it will work within the context of the new Anglo-Eastern Univan.”

And as he asserts it will be up to the company themselves to prove they are right to their customers and the system works.