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BW Group Adds $605 Million of Gas Ships as Rates Increase

May 29 (Bloomberg) -- BW Group Ltd., the biggest owner of the largest liquefied petroleum gas carriers, will expand its fleet with ships valued at as much as $605 million as record trade in the fuel lifts freight rates to near a record.

The company bought five very large gas carriers from Maersk Tankers and took over charters for the same number, the two owners said in a joint statement today. The fleet would cost between $580 million and $605 million, assuming the vessels lack charters, Arctic Securities ASA analyst Erik Nikolai Stavseth in Oslo said by e-mail today.

Rates for the ships jumped as much as 78 percent to $70.86 a metric ton this year, in part because the U.S. is shipping a record amount of LPGs including propane and butane as it taps new energy reserves found in shale-rock formations. The transaction will add to BW Group’s share in a market where it already has the biggest fleet, according to data from Clarkson Plc, the world’s largest shipbroker.

BW Group, based in Singapore, owns 15 VLGCs and operates seven more, communications and brand manager Lisa Lim said by phone. There are 165 of the vessels in service, data compiled by Bloomberg show. The transaction requires regulatory approval.

Maersk Tankers is selling to focus on fewer shipping markets, Chief Executive Officer Hanne Soerensen said by phone today. The company “has no further plans at this point” to sell additional vessels, she said.

Rates for VLGCs will this year exceed the record $81.64 a ton set in 2008, Exmar NV, an Antwerp, Belgium-based owner of LPG carriers, said May 21. Trade in the fuel used in everything from cigarette lighters to plastics will advance 6 percent this year to a record 71 million tons, according to shipbroker Joachim Greig & Co.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rob Sheridan in London at rsheridan6@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Alaric Nightingale at anightingal1@bloomberg.net

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