One-third of Hin Leong founder O.K. Lim's 150 ships sold to repay debt: Sources

Several vessels from Xihe Holdings, which is owned by the Lim family, were put up for sale through shipbrokers in September 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE (REUTERS) - About one-third of the roughly 150 ships owned by companies controlled by Singapore tycoon Lim Oon Kuin and his family have been sold as part of efforts to repay billions of dollars of debt owed to creditors, two sources told Reuters.

Accounting firm Grant Thornton, court-appointed supervisor of Xihe Holdings, put up several vessels for sale through shipbrokers in September last year. Xihe Holdings is owned by the Lim family and held the bulk of their fleet.

The rest of the ships are majority-owned by Xihe Capital - currently under liquidation, according to Singapore business registry records - and 10 single-purpose companies.

The ships owned by the Xihe group have been sold at prices of US$2 million (S$2.65 million) to US$3 million each for coastal barges and around US$30 million each for very large crude carriers (VLCCs), said the two sources.

Buyers include Greek ship owners, one of the sources said.

Further details, including the total sum of money raised so far, were not available.

It is expected that the rest of the ships will be sold by late this year, although some of them are tied up in various lawsuits as counterparties try to lay claim to the cargoes on the ships, the source said.

The sources declined to be named as they were not authorised to speak to the media. A Lim family representative, their lawyer and Grant Thornton did not immediately reply to a Reuters request for comment on the sale of the vessels.

Mr Lim Oon Kuin, better known as O.K. Lim, with his son Evan Lim Chee Meng and daughter Lim Huey Ching, had owned just over 150 ships before their flagship trading company Hin Leong Trading, fleet manager Ocean Tankers and Xihe Holdings were placed under judicial management last year.

The bulk of the Lims' fleet remains idled in the South China Sea, off the east of Peninsular Malaysia, shipping data on Refinitiv Eikon showed.

Other assets being sold include the family's stake in Universal Terminal and a lubricant plant in Singapore.

Last month, judicial managers filed to wind up Hin Leong, nearly a year after what was once one of Asia's top oil traders racked up some $4 billion in debt and entered court restructuring.

Hin Leong had been seeking to restructure its debts after the oil price crash last year when the elder Mr Lim admitted in a court document to directing the firm not to disclose hundreds of millions of dollars in losses over several years.

Accounting agency PwC said in a report last year that Hin Leong had no future as an independent company after it "grossly overstated" the value of its assets by at least $3 billion.

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