The last five years have seen several shipping and shipping-related companies incorporate in Bermuda and go on to list on the Oslo Stock Exchange. A key step along the route for a number of them has been the use of the Norwegian over-the-counter market as a fast-track way to access fresh capital. Avance Gas, Flex LNG, and Borr Drilling all took this route prior to an Oslo listing, whilst GoodBulk and 2020 Bulkers listed on Norway’s OTC just last year, highlighting the enduring appeal of the Bermuda-Oslo nexus.
Bermuda has long been a jurisdiction of choice for ship owners and investors in ship owning structures. As an island nation, shipping is part of Bermuda’s heritage and it has a thriving and respected ship registry — a Category One member of the prestigious Red Ensign Group — which presently boasts 160 commercial ships grossing over 11 million tonnes.
Shipping industry participants choose to incorporate in Bermuda because investors are comfortable with the island’s reputation as one of the world’s premier offshore jurisdictions and an established international finance centre. Bermuda offers a tax-neutral, business-friendly environment, with a robust regulatory framework that protects investor and creditor rights. The use of Bermuda vehicles, with recognized ownership and corporate governance structures, can enhance opportunities for international companies to access high quality capital efficiently.
A newly-incorporated Bermuda shipping company is typically looking for capital to grow.
Potential investors are more likely to show interest in an equity offering where there is some immediate liquidity for their investment. Norway, where shipping is in the country’s DNA, is the obvious place to turn to raise funds quickly. One option is a private placement of shares to investors, whilst simultaneously agreeing to list the shares on the Norwegian over-the-counter market (N-OTC), which is often described as a ‘fast-track listing.’
A substantial number of the companies listed on the NOTC are shipping or shippingrelated companies (including oil and gas drilling and transportation companies) and, of those, over 20% are Bermuda incorporated – second only to Norwegian companies. The most recent examples of Bermuda companies listing on the N-OTC are GoodBulk in April 2017 and 2020 Bulkers in December 2017.