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Bourbon Sells Offshore Vessels to China’s ICBC to Lower Debt

Jan. 7 (Bloomberg) -- Bourbon SA, an operator of supply and crew ships for the oil industry, sold a dozen vessels for $378 million to China’s ICBC Financial Leasing to reduce debt.

The deal brings ships sold to ICBC last year to 21 valued at about $522 million, Paris-based Bourbon said in a statement. The company will post a drop in net debt of about $500 million in the second half and positive free cash flow for the year, Chief Executive Officer Christian Lefevre said on a call.

The transaction by Bourbon, whose vessels service offshore oil platforms and wind farms in 45 countries, is part of a plan announced in March to sell as much as 30 percent of its supply-vessel fleet for as much as $2.5 billion. The operator agreed last year to sell and lease back as many as 51 ships to ICBC and expects the remaining 30 to be transferred this year. The latest to be sold will be leased back by Bourbon for 10 years.

The company rose 2.2 percent to 20.53 euros by 9:53 a.m. in Paris after reaching 20.74 euros, a two-month high.

Bourbon also signed a transaction with Standard Chartered Plc at the end of November for the sale and charter of six new-build vessels for almost $150 million, with half of those, worth $65 million, to be transferred at the end of 2013.

The ICBC and Standard Chartered deals bring the total sold to $1.65 billion, Lefevre said. The final goal “should probably be reached over this year and the start of 2015,” he said.

Bourbon also sold older ships separately last year for $183 million, bringing total sales to $770 million. The company plans to operate 600 owned and chartered vessels by 2015, up from 479 at the end of September, under a $2 billion expansion plan.

“We are very confident because we see strong demand for vessels from clients,” Lefevre said of 2014. “Many projects that were delayed in the past years are getting done.”

Any plans by oil companies to cut spending to improve cash flow “aren’t being felt on the ground,” he said. Relatively high oil prices are spurring energy companies to push ahead with projects to reverse weaker supply at mature oil and gas fields.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tara Patel in Paris at tpatel2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Will Kennedy at wkennedy3@bloomberg.net

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