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Added to the Direct Ferries site news pages in the last day or so:

SpeedFerries looking for partner to explore new routes

Date: 21 Sep 2006
Source: Lloyds List

Cross Channel low-cost ferry pioneer SpeedFerries is considering a joint venture with another shipping company with the aim of taking its low-cost ferry model on to other routes.

Founder and chief executive Curt Stavis told Lloyd’s List the company was preparing a £10m ($18.9m) capital investment programme with the banks on its own account but was also in contact with other shipping companies and ferry operators that had expressed an interest in investing in the company.

He declined to say who the company’s potential partners were, indicating only that it was in contact with three identified parties, including ferry operators on other routes and shipping companies interested in breaking into the ferry sector as well as other as yet unidentified parties.

“It is open, and my guess is there will be five to 10 interested parties within a month,” he said.

He stressed that the company was not in difficulty, saying that it was on target to reach break-even this year for the first time since its launch in May, 2004.

The objective was to try to accelerate the company’s development through an association with a strong partner.

He indicated that if a partnership were agreed it would need to be so before the end of the year, but insisted: “There is a 50% probability that we will go on without co-operation.”

Mr Stavis said the company could envisage giving up a 51% majority stake to a partner which shared its “mentality”, but not more than 49% otherwise.

Whatever the case, SpeedFerries would not be sold for a knock-down price and was perfectly well able to continue activity on its own account. It was a “friends and family” company, he said, referring to SpeedFerries’ existing capital structure, and could continue as such.

The disadvantage to doing so was that existing shareholders would not be able to finance a more ambitious development programme which would allow the company to take its business model on to other routes as it had always hoped to do.

“The interest being shown is based on SpeedFerries being pretty attractive at the moment,” he said. “We are not selling SpeedFerries cheap.”

The company is set to increase its attractiveness through the introduction of a long-awaited second catamaran on its service between Dover and Boulogne- sur-Mer.

Mr Stavis said that it would bring its new vessel, Speed Two, into service early next year and, following an overhaul of its existing Speed One, would be running a two-vessel service from Easter next year.

He said that it had completed the fully financed acquisition of a 91 m Incat catamaran with capacity for 200 cars, 20 more than the 86 m Speed One.

“This is exactly the kind of boat we have been looking for,” he said.

He was not at liberty to reveal the identity of the vessel or its existing owner immediately but indicated that it was one of only four of its type on the market.

These are the Max Molsoperated by Mols-Linien of Denmark, the Incat 046 operated by Canadian company Bay Ferries, the Master Catof Norway-Denmark operator Master Ferries and P&O Irish Sea’s Express.

The company expects to announce its plans formally in “a few weeks” but, meanwhile, is in talks with the port of Dover about berthing facilities for its future enlarged operation.

It is at present operating from the port’s eastern docks with other Dover Strait operators but says that a switch to the western docks, formerly used by Hoverspeed, is a possibility.

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I suppose its still a bit early for next year. You can book until March  which the time of year when Speed One normally goes off on its annual holiday/overhual.

I guess it makes sense to avoid a massive reallocation and/or cancelation exercise if they will have a bit more clarity in the near future.

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