Coeclerici plans US foray.
INTEGRATED dry bulk operator Coeclerici hopes to establish a beachhead in the US this year as part of a broader expansion of its mining, trading and logistics operations.
Interviewed at the company"s Milan headquarters, president Paolo Clerici said a US presence would allow it to tap into major coal-producing countries such as Colombia and Venezuela.
He also sees opportunities for expansion in the US, both through the freight transfer stations that have become a core business for the company where shallow draughts or environmental issues prohibit easy loading of large vessels in port, and in inland transport.
Mr Clerici added that the company was negotiating with a potential partner to set up a trading operation in Germany, thereby filling another gap in its coverage.
It is also looking to expand its proprietary coal-mining operation, following its purchase two years ago of the Korchakol mine in Siberia. Mr Clerici said the company was ready to spend up to $100m on another mine purchase.
He insisted, however, that he would not be returning to shipowning any time soon, following the sale of his bulker fleet some five years ago.
Though he did not rule out acquiring ships, he said he would do so only if he succeeded in substantially increasing proprietary coal production and securing major long-term contracts with industrial end-users.
Coeclerici recently ordered two 55,000 dwt vessels for $120m from Chinese yard Jiangsu Hantong Heavy Industry, but they are floating transfer stations not ore-carrying bulkers as initially reported.
While Mr Clerici declined comment on their future deployment, industry sources suggest they will be based offshore West Africa for use by Brazil"s Vale.
An eventual US office, meanwhile, would be responsible for Colombia and Venezuela. ?Where now we are doing very little in the US, we could go up to 2m tonnes per year of traded product fairly quickly.
?There are not that many ports in the US that accommodate capesize bulkers, or even panamaxes, so we would be looking at transhipment. But we are also looking onshore, at inland transport, basically terminals and barges that would work on the river system.?
Mr Clerici observed that ?we would probably need a partner on this, since we do not have the know-how,? adding that ?we are now looking at the potential candidates for a start-up?.
The company is also in discussions with a potential German partner ? ?a successful company doing 1-2m tonnes per year of coal ? with a view to filling its trading gap in northern Europe.
He cited Germany"s good connections with Eastern Europe as one key reason for the choice of location.
In addition, the looming closure of a number of German coal mines and the prospect that Germany may build new coal-fired power stations would increase demand for imported product.
While the company"s financial results for last year have not yet been finalised, Mr Clerici said he anticipated slightly higher profits than in 2008, when earnings came in at ?9.5m ($13.3m) on revenues of ?540.5m.