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   April 28, 2006

WEST ASIA Maritime, the Chennai-head quartered shipping arm of Dubai’s ETA-Ascon group, is looking out for taking over the Scandinavian shipping company. The company has already engaged two Norway-based merchant bankers for identifying possible targets.
West Asia Maritime managing director Abdul Qadir says: “Our business model is partly to own ships and partly to charter. We have 20 ships on charter now and own five vessels. This model is similar to the business model followed by the Scandinavian shipping companies.” The alternative is the Greek model where shipping companies also own most of their ships.
“The Scandinavian companies fit well with our business model. But we will also have to look out for the cargo orders that these companies hold and whether it is a loss or a profit making proposition,” he says.
On the budgets set aside for acquisitions he says, “As of December 2005, we are sitting on Rs.250 crore of cash. It has increased in the last three months. We can leverage that by 80 per cent.”
The company is in the business of dry-bulk cargo and chemicals transportation and does a lot of cabotage-transporting cargo between different ports of India.
Qadir says, “Chemicals is the new growth area for us. India accounts for almost 44 per cent of the world’s phosphoric acid imports. India is also the second largest importer of vegetable oils.”
He identifies imports of steaming coal and coking coal and the export of iron ore as the other areas of growth.
“We are looking at growing both organically and inorganically. We have started an office in Australia and are looking at expanding our Singapore office and opening and office in Hong Kong”. “We have to bring in people from Scandinavian countries. But many of them may not be willing to shift to India so we will base them in Singapore.” Qadir says.

SUMAN LAYAK
HINDUSTAN TIMES, MUMBAI

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