Naples-based tanker-bulker operator RBD Armatori was officially declared bankrupt on Friday by a local court.
Efforts to save the debt-laden company have been in progress for several months but its shareholders, the Rizzi, Bottiglieri and De Carlini families have failed to reach agreement on a rescue plan with its principal creditor, investment company Pillarstone.
Pillarstone, which was set up in 2015 to assist banks deal with non-performing loans and inherited assets, was reported to have acquired RBD Armatori debt worth EUR 569 million (USD 689 million) from Banco di Napoli and Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena last summer.
It ran quickly into difficulties with the company’s shareholders, however, after it followed up on the debt purchase with an application to have the company put into administration.
This provoked concerns that Pillarstone, which had earlier in the year taken over RBD Armatori’s fellow tanker-bulker operator, Premuda, planned to use this latter company to absorb RBD Armatori as part of a wider effort to acquire and restructure Italian shipping assets.
In July 2017, Italian shipowners’ organsation Confitarma attacked Pillarstone, accusing it of “very aggressive behaviour” towards RBD Armatori.
It claimed that the sale of RBD Armatori’s debt to Pillarstone ran counter to an agreement it had with Italian banking association ABI which provided for ABI member banks to strive to reach agreement with shipping companies before selling off their debt so as to preserve Italian shipping capacity and jobs.
RBD Armatori’s board and senior management team resigned at the end of July, leaving three court-appointed administrators to try to broker an agreement over the company’s future.
It was reported in November that the company’s shareholders were ready to accept an offer from Pillarstone to buy all its assets but were pressing the investment company to accept certain conditions. These included assurances that the company’s head office would be maintained in Naples and the jobs of its 400-strong workforce preserved.
When it became clear that the shareholders and Pillarstone were unable to reach agreement, the administrators told the court that they were unable to present it with a restructuring plan enabling the company to continue its activities. RBD Armatori operates a fleet of 13 tankers and bulk carriers.
Sea News, January 12