The “mystery” buyer of the shipyards in Gdynia and Szczecin has been officially revealed to be QInvest, Qatar’s largest investment bank. The purchase effectively saves the shipyards from the threat of bankruptcy that had been hanging over them since the European Commission ordered them late last year to pay back past state aid. Treasury Minister Aleksander Grad identified the investor to the press on Tuesday, more than a month after a majority stake in the shipyards was auctioned off for roughly PLN 380 mln. At that time, the buyer was identified as United International Trust, acting on behalf of Stichting Particulier Fonds Greenrights (SPFG), a company based in the Dutch Antilles.
New details about the purchase were made available after the terms of the deal were finalized. According to these, QInvest will receive financing from the Qatar Islamic Bank, its largest stakeholder and one of the world’s largest Islamic banks.
The new owner will take control of the shipyards after it makes payment to the Polish government on July 21.
A Warsaw-based company called Polskie Stocznie has been set up to run the combined operations of the two shipyards. SPFG president Jan Ruurd De Jonge will head the new company, with a Pole running each of the shipyards.
At a press conference on Wednesday, he explained that Polskie Stocznie aims to produce three to four ships annually in Gdynia, including ships for transporting liquid natural gas. The Szczecin shipyard will produce off-shore vessels, like those used to service drilling platforms, as well as steel construction elements. De Jonge said that the new company will employ only part of the current workforce at the shipyards and that the actual numbers would depend on the number of orders received. “I don’t want to make an empty promise, but eventually we want to have 2,000 people working in Gdynia and 3,000 in Szczecin,” he said.
The future of the shipyards is linked to an agreement signed last week with Qatar for Poland to import 1 mln tones of liquefied natural gas annually over the next 20 years. The contract, worth some USD 550 mln a year, sees deliveries to Poland’s LNG terminal in Świnoujscie beginning in 2014.
Talking to reporters De Jonge said that six to eight tankers will be used to transport the gas to Poland, and these will be built in Gdynia. Parts for the terminal itself would also likely be produced at the shipyards, he said.
Jan Guminski, head of the OPZZ union at the Gdynia shipyards expressed his reservations about the plans announced to build 3-4 gas tankers. “That is not enough to take full advantage of this facility’s capabilities,” he told Gazeta Wyborcza.
Both shipyards shut down production after the EC ruled in November 2008 that they be sold to recoup hundreds of millions of Euros in illegal public aid. Some 9,000 workers were laid off as a result.