Fredriksen Replaces Golden Ocean CEO as Dry Bulk Recovery Seen

Billionaire John Fredriksen changed the top management of his shipping company Golden Ocean Group Ltd., replacing its chief executive officer of more than a decade as he foresees a recovery in the dry bulk market.

Birgitte Ringstad Vartdal, chief financial officer since 2010, will replace Herman Billung as CEO, the company said in a statement. Billung has led the company since 2005 and been “instrumental” in making Golden Ocean one of the biggest dry-bulk shippers in the world, it said. Per Heiberg was promoted to CFO from vice president of finance.

Fredriksen, who’s chairman and owns 43 percent of the company, said he was “very pleased” to name Vartdal new CEO while wishing Billung “all the best for the future.” “With a modern fleet, good financial position and strong organization Golden Ocean is well positioned to benefit from a recovery in the dry bulk market,” he said.

Shippers ferrying coal, iron and grains are struggling through a market depression as faltering demand from China is exacerbated by a chronic oversupply of vessels. Billung, who joked back in 2012 that he had to sign off on cash flow forecasts “in my own blood,” oversaw an equity issue in February that raised 1.7 billion kroner.

He said in March that he expected the market to remain bad for another two years. “In dry bulk, we haven’t seen as bad a market since the Viking age,” he said at a conference in Oslo. “Has it ever been this bad in modern history? I would say no.”

Golden Ocean is also establishing a position of chief commercial officer and is looking for a candidate, the company said.

The shares gained as much as 3.4 percent in Oslo, and were up 1.6 percent at 7.10 kroner as of 9:45 a.m.

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