20 September 2006


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Business Today



Tug Malta asset value up ahead of privatisation

Matthew Vella

Tug Malta Ltd, one of government’s most successful public entities, yesterday inaugurated its latest acquisition, as the company’s asset value continues to increase ahead of government’s plans to divest its hefty shareholding in the company.
Yesterday, during the blessing of Tug Malta’s latest acquisition, Investments Minister Austain Gatt said privatisation was an opportunity to strengthen Malta’s competitiveness. “We’re not interested in somebody who wants to keep everything as it is... we want somebody who can turn this company in a hub for the Mediterranean.”
The company, 73 per cent of which is owned by the Malta government, has only just recently purchased two new builds, the Wenzina and Pawlina. The two new tugs were purchased for Lm4.5 million, aimed at improving the services of Tug Malta. The new boats were commissioned due to problems encountered by the fleet during bad weather, lack of strength and not enough speed.
With an eight-tug fleet, the company’s acquisitions have continued to increase despite government’s intention to divest its Lm1.08 million shareholding in Tug Malta, which was incorporated in 1980 when it was nationalised with a fleet of four tugs.
The other shareholders include HSBC Bank Malta plc, (8.19%) part of the legacy of its predecessor Mid-Med Bank, and Midmed Towage Company (10.58%), and Sullivan Investments (7.51%).
Midmed Towage’s shareholders comprise of Sullivan & Sullivan Ltd, which is related to Sullivan Investments, as well as Thos Smith, P Cutajar & Co, Lambert Brothers Shipping, and Bermuda’s Banco Nominees.
The call will be kept open until the 25 September.
Tug Malta’s half-yearly performance ended March 2006 with Lm591,000 in gross profits, a 36 per cent gross operating margin of its turnover. In 2005 it posted Lm1 million in profits, again with a 35 per cent gross operating margin.
Earlier this month the Investments Ministry privatisation unit issued a call for expression of interest for the purchase of the government’s share in Tug Malta, which is the sole and exclusive provider of harbour towage services in Maltese ports.
Minister Austin Gatt said the profits registered in 2005, after a Lm21,000 loss in 2004, were sign of a positive financial situation that rendered the company ready for restructuring.
This included having less sailors on tugs by reducing them to four, from five.
The company currently employs 88 people, 14 in administration, 18 as operations and technical staff, and 56 crewmembers aboard the tugs.
Today Tug Malta operates a shift system allowing it to operate on a 24-7 basis, as part of a 15-year agreement with the Malta Maritime Authority.
The MMA also regulates harbour towage rates for the company.

mvella@mediatoday.com.mt



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