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Dry Bulk Magnates Gather to Float Deals

Greek shipping magnates have converged on New York City for their version of Fleet Week.

An annual conference sponsored for the last 22 years by a shipping-industry trade journal called Marine Money, the event draws its fair share of dry-bulk and tanker-company executives -- not to mention the bankers who hope to win their business.

This year's meeting, in fact, is co-sponsored by the boutique investment firm Dahlman Rose, which professes to specialize in banking the raw-materials-related industries.

The convention, aptly dubbed "Marine Money Week," is also seen as a dealmaking forum -- sort of the shipping-company version of the famous, and sometimes raucous, media-business confab put on by media investment-banking boutique Allen & Co. every July in Sun Valley, Idaho. (A possibly intoxicated Rupert Murdoch reputedly lost his wedding band at a Sun Valley hotel bar during last year's powwow.)

But these are fraught times among the shippers. Partying may be down on their list of priorities. The conference's title this year gives an indication of what's on everyone's mind: "Liquidity, Liquidity, Liquidity." Says the Marine Money conference brochure, "The single most important key to success for a shipowner the next 12 months will be access to capital."

Indeed, the shipping industry has, of course, followed the worldwide economy into deep recession. But many shipping companies added to their own woes by making ill-timed fleet-expansion moves, borrowing loads of money at the peak of the bubble in 2007 to purchase boats in a bid for outsize growth. The moves backfired after credit markets froze and the economy came to a halt last year, leaving those firms to struggle with balance sheets freighted with debt.

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