Japan's Sanko Steamship files for bankruptcy

Mon Jul 2, 2012 4:23am EDT
 
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By Osamu Tsukimori

TOKYO (Reuters) - One of Japan's oldest shipping firms, Sanko Steamship, filed for bankruptcy on Monday after months of battling with ship owners over the restructuring of $2 billion in debt, becoming the latest casualty of the four-year-old shipping industry downturn.

The dry bulk and tanker shipping firm, started in 1934, joins U.S.-based General Maritime Corp, the Containership Company, and South Korea's Korea Line in seeking bankruptcy protection amid rock bottom freight rates, an oversupply of vessels and high bunker fuel prices.

Sanko said it gave up the out-of-court settlement process it had pursued since March, and chose to seek protection from its creditors.

That was because it found itself in a severe cash flow problem as multiple ship owners retaliated against the rescheduling of charter fee payments by seizing Sanko-owned ships among others, the company said in a statement.

"We have reached a conclusion in light of our current circumstances that the best way of our reorganization is to file a petition for commencement of corporate reorganization proceedings," Sanko said.

Sanko said its current top management would serve as the administrator for the bankruptcy.

REPEAT PERFORMANCE

Credit researcher Tokyo Shoko Research said Sanko, which was restructured once before after filing for bankruptcy protection in 1985, had total debts of 155.8 billion yen ($1.95 billion).   Continued...