China’s shipbuilders are set to spark a price war in the oil-rig market. With orders for new ships plunging to an eight-year low in 2012, China Rongsheng Heavy Industries Group Holdings Ltd. (1101) and its local rivals are foraying into the offshore business, lured by a market that will reach about $328 billion in 2017. The new entrants are lowering prices to grab contracts, hurting margins at Singapore-based Keppel Corp. (KEP) and Sembcorp (SMM) Marine Ltd., the world’s two-biggest rig makers.
“It’s like moving from one bottomless pit to another,” said Park Moo Hyun, an analyst at E*Trade Securities Co. in Seoul. “Chinese shipyards are competitively trying to get into what they see as a lucrative business. But the consequence of that is they could end up distorting the whole market.”
China Rongsheng, the nation’s biggest yard outside state control, announced in October its first order to make a tender barge and rival Yangzijiang Shipbuilding Holdings Ltd. (YZJ) got its first rig contract last month. Shanghai-based China Rongsheng warned in December of posting a loss in 2012 after three straight years of profits.
Jinhai Heavy Industry Co., based in Zhejiang province, China, also secured its first offshore equipment contract last month.
“Whether or not the Chinese yards can earn money from the current orders is pretty much in the air,” said Vincent Fernando, an analyst at Religare Capital Markets in Singapore. “There’s a steep learning curve.”
Rongsheng rose 2.5 percent to close at HK$1.64 in Hong Kong. The city’s benchmark Hang Seng Index gained 0.6 percent. Yangzijiang gained 5.4 percent to S$1.08 in Singapore trading. Sembcorp rose 1 percent to S$4.84 and Keppel advanced 0.7 percent to S$11.25. The city-state’s benchmark Straits Times Index rose 0.2 percent.
Hyundai Heavy Industries Ltd. (009540), the world’s biggest shipmaker, and other South Korean yards are also seeking to win more orders for drill ships and floating production units amid rising energy demand.
Shipyards are boosting offshore equipment business as Petroleo Brasileiro SA (PETR4), Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) and other energy companies develop new fields amid depleting oil reserves at existing wells.
The global onshore and offshore plant construction market is expected to rise to $1.26 trillion in 2017 from $989 billion in 2012, according to South Korea’s Ministry of Knowledge. The offshore oil and gas market may account for 26 percent of that, the ministry said in a Jan. 7 statement.
While demand for rigs has been booming, ship orders have plummeted because of excess fleet capacity and global economic uncertainties. Vessel prices have fallen as much as 27 percent in the past two years, according to Clarkson Plc (CKN), the world’s biggest shipbroker.
About 464 shipyards in China won 18.7 million deadweight tons of orders worth $14.3 billion last year, the lowest since 2004, according to Clarkson. That compares with contracts for 14.6 million tons worth $29.6 billion received by 88 yards in South Korea, the world’s second-biggest shipbuilding nation.
Thirty-eight percent of yards in China didn’t get contracts for new vessels in 2012, and 10 percent had no deliveries scheduled beyond the end of that year, the London-based shipbroking unit of ICAP Plc said in a report sent by e-mail on Dec. 24.
That’s prompting Chinese shipyards’ diversification into rigs at cut-rate prices.
China Rongsheng said it has set up an offshore unit in Singapore, where the company has hired engineers with more than 20 years of experience. That “will help compensate Rongsheng China’s lack of experience in building rigs and drill ships and shorten the company’s learning curve,” it said in an e-mail.
Yangzijiang, based in Jiangyin, China, announced last month it got a $170 million order for a jack-up rig, lower than the $205 million contract Keppel got in April for a similar product. It’s an indicator of lower margins in the future, Keppel Chief Executive Officer Choo Chiau Beng said in a December interview.
Yangzijiang said in an e-mail it doesn’t expect prices to drop because of the competition, while Jinhai said Chinese yards’ lack of experience in building offshore equipment wouldn’t lead to lower prices.
Cosco Corp. Singapore Ltd. (COS), the shipbuilding unit of China’s biggest shipping company, said in August it expects to incur higher costs as it worked on offshore projects it had never done before. That includes a contract to build a semi- submersible accommodation rig.
Net income at Cosco Singapore fell for six straight quarters partly because of costs for building the offshore projects. In 2011, the company set aside S$150.4 million ($123 million) on expected losses from these contracts, more than double the loss a year earlier.
Shipyards in China are the world’s biggest builders of bulk ships, used to haul iron ore, grain and coal. Only a handful of companies in the country have built more complex vessels such as liquefied natural gas carriers and container ships that are longer than the Eiffel Tower.
“Yards that were making medium to smaller dry bulk ships aren’t simply going to wake up one day and be able to do jackup rigs,” said Jon Windham, a Hong Kong-based analyst at Barclays Plc.
Shipyards in China, the world's largest vessel-building nation, are at risk of closing after they failed to secure orders, according to ICAP Shipping International Ltd.
Thirty-eight per cent of yards in the country didn't get contracts for new vessels in 2012 and 10 per cent have no deliveries scheduled beyond the year's end, the London-based shipbroking unit of ICAP said in a report sent by e-mail on December 24.
"There is a real chance now that a significant number of yards will close," ICAP said.
China is undercutting Singapore’s rig builders by as much as 20% as it looks to muscle into a sector that has traditionally been fought out by just the Lion Republic and South Korea, according to analysts in Singapore.
Low Pei Han, investment analyst at OCBC Investment Research, told Channel News Asia: "[Singapore offshore builders] have seen very good order books, Keppel and Sembcorp Marine each secured about 10 billion dollars worth of orders this year.
"About 50% of each came from Sete Brasil and Petrobras, which is what the market had more or less anticipated. Going into 2013, we expect Sete Brasil and Petrobras orders to remain about the same level as this year, which will be about S$4 billion to S$5 billion."
But the Singapore rigbuilders are likely to greater competition from Chinese companies going forward.
Analysts said some Chinese shipbuilders are offering similar products at a 20% discount.
In December, for instance, China’s Yangzijiang secured a $170m order for a jack-up rig, while a similar contract at Keppel O&M cost US$205m.
China has made clear it plans to bag 20% of the global market for rigs, production facilities and offshore products by 2015.
Not everyone is convinced the Chinese can overhaul Singapore so quickly, however.
Janice Chua, head of equity research (Singapore) at DBS Vickers, told Channel News Asia: "It is a tall order for the Chinese yards to try and get the global market share for rigs.
"In order for the Chinese yards to have a bigger market share globally, what is more important is the soft skills of project management, engineering, design expertise, as well as ensuring that they can deliver the projects on time and according to the clients specification. That will take at least three years to build for any of these offshore structures."
Around 38% of Chinese yards have failed to win a single new contract in 2012 and about 10% of Chinese have no orders for delivery beyond 2012, says ICAP Shipping Research.
However, more than 90% of Korean shipbuilders have scheduled deliveries beyond 2013, according to ICAP.
James Leake, managing director of the company, said "There is a real chance now that a significant number of yards will close from lack of orders."
"38% of Chinese yards, for example, have not had a contract placed in 2012 and 10% have no scheduled deliveries for beyond the end of 2012."
"Ironically the most positive prospect facing the shipping markets in 2013 is that ship finance conditions are unlikely to improve significantly, and with it new contracting activity is likely to remain modest," he added.
Shipyards in China, the world’s largest vessel-building nation, are at risk of closing after they failed to secure orders, according to ICAP Shipping International Ltd.
Thirty-eight percent of yards in the country didn’t get contracts for new vessels in 2012 and 10 percent have no deliveries scheduled beyond the year’s end, the London-based shipbroking unit of ICAP Plc said in a report sent by e-mail on Dec. 24.
“There is a real chance now that a significant number of yards will close,” ICAP said. Current prices for smaller new vessels, known as newbuildings, are loss-making unless shipyards receive a “considerable subsidy,” it said.
About 30 percent of ships being built and expected to be finished in 2012 didn’t meet completion schedules and “will likely never deliver” because the owners couldn’t get funding from banks to pay for them, ICAP said.
A total of 999 vessels worth $72.5 billion were ordered worldwide in the first 11 months of 2012, the lowest number of contracts since 1999, according to Clarkson Plc (CKN), the largest shipbroker. China has the most newbuildings on order when measured by capacity, Clarkson data show.
Shipbuilders delivered 2,286 vessels from January to November, including 1,052 from China and 443 from South Korea, the second-largest shipbuilder, according to Clarkson.
With year end coming, the domestic shipbuilding market gladly witness an upturn in new orders. However, the ship price has remained weak recently. The recovery of the whole shipbuilding industry seems out of reach now.
According to China Newbuilding Price Index Co., Ltd, Chinese shipyard won new orders for 153 vessels in November, increasing by 94 units compared with October. However, the Newbuidling Price Index fell by 0.12% to 857 points in the first half of December, demonstrating the weakness of ship price.
Since this December, bulker newbuilding market has decreased slightly month on month for most buyers choose to sit on the fence as the year to end. COSCO Guangdong has recently secured an order for two Handyasizes from a European owner and Jingjiang Nanyang Shipbuilding inked six 6,000dwt bulkers from Ukraine KDM Shipping.
Tanker market is more active comparatively. CSIC placed a newbuilding order for 2+2 308,000dwt VLCCs at COSCO Shipyard after CSSC and COSCO’s cooperation. The tanker market benefits from the policy that domestic shipyards build domestic vessels in the period.
UBS analyst Sun Xu estimates that 2013 will be another tough year for shipbuilding and real recovery is hopeful in 2015. Affected by declining steel rates and low industry capacity utilization, the newbuilding price is likely to fall further. The new orders in 2013 is prospected to reach 46.4m dwt, increasing by 12% year on year, yet only 17% of the new order volume in 2007.
At a ship finance forum held on December 3-4 in Beijing, China Exim Bank has signed loan agreements with five shipping and shipbuilding companies in order to support shipbuilding projects at domestic shipyards and help them get through current difficulties. The total amount of loans is RMB7bn.
According to the agreements, China Exim Bank and Citibank will jointly offer US$667m to Norwegian company Seadrill for its orders of two jack-up platforms at DSIC and four offshore drilling support barges at Cosco Nantong; China Exim Bank will provide around US$467m for these deals.
China Exim Bank will also join hands with the World Bank to offer a US$266m loan to Belgian company Exmar for its world’s first floating LNG liquefaction, regasification and storage unit (FLRSU) currently under construction at Wison Offshore and Marine in Nantong.
Other loan deals in the agreement include an RMB1.25bn loan to Cosco Bulk Shipping for five bulker newbuildings, RMB500m to DSIC for a containership order from a Hong Kong owner and RMB500m to Shanghai Shipyard for a drillship order from a Singaporean owner.
“As a policy bank and main supporting bank for China’s shipping and shipbuilding industry, China Exim Bank will play a guiding role of the nation’s financial policy and increase support to the industry to help enterprises actively deal with the crisis,” China Exim Bank said in an announcement.
China's yard overcapacity has escalated into a serious problem.
China Shipbuilding Economy Research Center said the number of small domestic shipyards falling out of the market were to accelerate and Chinese shipbuilding industries should overcome recent crisis by reducing yard capacity and shutting down some of small-sized shipyards.
Currently, China's top 20 shipyards booked 80% of overall orders contracted at 700 some domestic shipyards during the first ten months of 2012. Moreover, total newbuildings contracted were declined by around 33% against the same period of last year.
Amid global economic crisis, shipowners have become more cautious to invest in newbuildings and they are interested in cooperation with major shipyards with low risk and economic capacity, which threatens existence of small-and-medium sized shipyards.
Therefore, China may reenact Japanese shipyards in 1970-80s, when two thirds of local shipbuilders went out of business and only major seven shipyards survived with support from the government.
China's shipyard and shipbuilding-related industries have been struggling with tough market and management environment this year.
According to a latest report by the China Association of National Shipbuilding Industry (CANSI), during the first ten months of this year, Chinese shipyards have delivered a total of 46.67m dwt, declined by 15.5% year-on-year.
During the same period, Chinese shipbuilders contracted overall 16.42m dwt, which saw 44.8% drop year-on-year. As of the end of October, Chinese stood on 116.63m dwt orders, down by 29.5% year-on-year and by 22.2% on the end of last year.
From January to October of this year, Chinese shipyards completed delivery of 38,83m-dwt export ships, decreased by 16.8% year-on-year, and contracted a total of 13.09m-dwt export ships, dropped by 41.4% as well. Orderbook for export ship, at the end of October, fell by 28.5% to 97.38m dwt.
Delivery, new order and orderbook of the export ship account for 83.2%, 79.7% and 83.5% in Chinese shipyards' each of total.
Chinese shipyards suffered a month-on-month drop in new orders in October as production tumbled in yards across the globe.
But the nation’s yards remain the world leader in landing new orders, figures show.
In October, new orders for the world shipbuilding industry fell by 32 percent from September to 1.4 million compensated gross tons (CGT), largely because of a sharp drop in new orders for Chinese and South Korean yards.
Compensated gross tonnage is an indicator of the amount of work necessary to build a given ship and is calculated by multiplying the tonnage of a ship by a coefficient, determined according to type and size of a particular vessel.
Statistics from Clarksons Plc, the world’s leading provider of shipping services, show total volume of new orders at South Korean yards fell by 70 percent from a month earlier to 180,000 CGT, while Chinese yards also suffered a fall, with their new orders standing at 540,000 CGT. No figure was available for this percentage decline.
European yards, in contrast, saw a strong surge in new orders, rising to 460,000 CGT in October from 170,000 CGT in September, according to Clarksons.