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What role did London Greeks play in Baltic Exchange sale to SGX

What role did London Greeks play in Baltic Exchange sale to SGX
What role did the London Greeks shipping community play in the sale of the Baltic Exchange to the Singapore Exchange (SGX)? Market buzz points to a considerable one.

London Greeks have long been supporters of the Baltic Exchange and have traditionally had a close relationship with it, especially the Greek Shipping Co-operation Committee (GSCC) which sees the exchange as home.

Around 95% of Baltic shareholders voted this week in favour of a takeover deal, valued at SGD87m ($112.87m). A considerable weight of that vote likely came from Greek shareholders, who account for just over 20% of the shares.

The market is presently brutal and the deal is going to benefit the sellers, whether they be shipbrokers or ship operators, cashwise as well as probably offering a more developed market information service as indicated by SGX.

With the shipping industry suffering a deep downturn, as international trade slows and freight rates fall in an over-supplied market there was a feeling the Baltic needed a non-shipping force to push it into the 21st century. The SGX is largely non-shipping but does have a dominant position in the dry freight derivatives clearing market, and simlilarly in iron ore.

As outgoing ceo Jeremy Penn told Reuters: "In terms of a deal, the possibility arose when it became clear that the Baltic was worth substantially more than the shares were trading for and that there was interest out there in an acquisition.”

There were other buyer candidates including the London Metal Exchange (LME), CME Group, state-run conglomerate China Merchants Group and Platts.

The LME first proposed a jv in 2010 to launch an exchange for freight derivatives trading but this ran into opposition from ship brokers, who are members and shareholders of the Baltic, fearing they could lose business.

For Greek ship owners, who had been in London for decades Britain's move to scrap special tax breaks for long-term residents so-called "non-doms" status was a motivating factor helping the deal. New ‘non-dom’ regulations, are due to take effect from April 2017. They have caused controversy for years, allowing some people who live in Britain but declare their permanent home to be elsewhere to avoid tax on most of their earnings from abroad.

"It's not the same as it was in the past and the non-dom issue has been a serious factor for the London Greeks – many of whom are moving out of London," one source close to Greek shipowners told Reuters.

For its part the GSCC has been quiet, but it known to have discussed the fall-out of the UK vote to leave the European Union at length.

Anyway the new set will retain quite a Greek character. The new chairman is Lambros Varnavides, who before his retirement mid-2014 as RBS’ head of shipping, during a 40-year career lent about $100bn to the international shipping community ,a fair slice of it to Greek operators making RBS the long-time leading lender to Greek shipping. He is active in various organisations including Lloyd's Register Foundation (LRF), the largest charity in the UK and owner of the Lloyd's Register Group. LRF is also involved in several Greek charities including Helmepa, The Maria Tsakos Trust and a scholarship scheme with the Union of Greek Shipowners.

The Baltic's new ceo Mark Jackson, is a director of AM Nomikos & Son (UK) and chief commercial officer for the Athens-based AM Nomikos group.