The ringing of the Oslo Børs bell on Monday 5 June will be heard throughout the global ocean industries. A special ceremony will mark not just the opening of the market, but the start of Nor-Shipping 2023, underlining the stock exchange’s significance as the world leader in shipping listings. Here CEO Øivind Amundsen explains how this leading position has been built from within the Norwegian maritime cluster, and how being part of the Euronext group is enabling further progress.
‘Partnership is very important for us. We would not be the biggest stock exchange in the world for shipping if it was not for the strong industry cluster in Norway,’ says Oslo Børs CEO Øivind Amundsen, pointing to collaboration as the foundation for the stock exchange’s success.
‘The ecosystem in the Norwegian financial market is based on the participants all working together, so I often say that we own this market jointly, and we co-operate to make it work. ‘We have the investors, bankers, brokers, lawyers and analysts that know the shipping business very well and can support each other.’
It should come as no surprise that Oslo Børs is one of the oldest stock exchanges in the world given the importance of the shipping industry to Norway over the centuries and how vital the lifeblood of raising capital is to the sector. Oslo is also known for being very strong in the energy and seafood sectors but following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent energy crisis and market turbulence it is the traditional mainstay of shipping that is currently the exchange’s strongest when it comes to new listings.
This strength in depth attracted pan-European stock exchange group Euronext when it became the owner and operator of the Oslo Børs in 2019. That move opened the door to a pan-European liquidity base and the combined might of regulated exchanges in Belgium, France, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and the Netherlands, with 1,930 listed issuers and about €6.3 trillion in market capitalisation as of the end of March this year.
‘This means Oslo Børs now has access to many thousands of investors, and that appeals even more to shipping companies,’ says Amundsen. ‘We have a strong base.’
Oslo surpassed New York as the leading stock exchange for listed shipping companies a few years ago, and since then it has gone from strength to strength, attracting more companies from shipping hubs across the world, including from Singapore and Athens. It now lists more than 40 top maritime companies that boast a combined market cap of close to €20 billion.
Companies can see the advantage of being part of an advanced network able to offer expert advice and with the capacity to deliver high quality investors. These investors are now focused on how those in the shipping industry can demonstrate a commitment to strong environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles as regulatory demands are changing rapidly, including the drive to decarbonisation.
‘The market has changed a lot,’ notes Amundsen. ‘As little as 10 years ago, nobody talked about IMO regulations, dual-fuel, clean fuel or ammonia. The focus then was on time to market – the fastest way to transport goods from A to B. However, that has now changed dramatically. ‘I think many people do not consider shipping to be an ESG business, that it is a polluting business, but really it is the other way around. It will be extremely important for many years ahead to transport goods on the oceans and that puts an even greater focus on ESG across the shipping sector.
‘If you are not part of this and take your responsibility as a ship owner or charterer, you will lose out,’ warns Amundsen. ‘Companies that come to Oslo know that the investors here require you to follow the IMO rules and require that you have sufficient modern ships. If you do not, then you will not be getting any contracts.
‘There is such a strong demand now from investors that companies have a comprehensive ESG profile. If you want good investors and long-term investment, what we call high-quality investors, they will want to see you can deliver on the ESG side,’ he adds.
Nor-Shipping’s leading role as a forum for co-operation
ESG is a topic that is here to stay, and more shipping industry players are setting up dedicated in-house departments to tackle the issues and to imbed those principles across company business. The upcoming Nor-Shipping Conference in Oslo and Lillestrøm on 6-9 June this year is including ESG as a core topic of discussion and Amundsen is pleased Oslo Børs will be very visible at the gathering as Euronext is an official conference partner.
‘Nor-Shipping is important for us because it is one of the largest shipping events in the world with the full range of participants in the sector attending, including shipowners and suppliers from across the international market. It is a great platform for us to meet the players and to explain what Euronext can offer. If you want to develop, if you want to buy from others, if you need to buy ships, you will need funding.’
Nor-Shipping is very well-established as an important hub for key decision-makers from across all areas of the shipping industry to connect and to harness the opportunities presented. Almost 30,000 people attended the conference last time and more are expected this year, with more exhibitors also set to be present.
Charting a course for success
Amundsen’s position as chief executive of the leading stock exchange for the shipping industry places him in a central role at conferences such as Nor-Shipping, but he also has a personal investment in the industry and has perhaps a unique perspective.
‘I used to be a naval officer and attended the Norwegian naval academy, long before entering the world of finance. I worked for several years as an officer on a naval vessel – my last position was second-in-command on a minehunter – so I know a little bit about how the maritime industry works, and I have a personal relationship to the sea,’ he explains.
‘I think it is not only nice to meet the people at Nor-Shipping but also to go around the conference looking at all the equipment and services on display, because for me it is fun to see how much things have developed since I was at sea. ‘It is a little personal, as well as business,’ he adds. The perfect partnership.