(Reuters) -Belgian shipowner Exmar said on Friday it had signed a 10-year charter deal for the liquefied natural gas (LNG) vessel Excalibur with Eni as the Belgian shipowner closes the sale of its Tango LNG barge to the Italian energy group.
The squeeze on oil and gas imports from Russia, following what Moscow calls "a special military operation" in Ukraine, has left Western powers scrambling to plug the energy gap, pushing them to expand LNG capacity.
Exmar, which had been struggling to find a user to charter one of its giant LNG ships, said in August it had agreed to sell its Tango LNG floating liquefaction facility to Italy's Eni for 572 million to 694 million dollars.
The group said in an earnings report that it had recently signed an agreement to acquire 100% of Excalibur, Exmar's sole LNG carrier, which after dry-dock will be converted into a floating storage unit (FSU) and employed for the Eni project.
KBC Securities' Olivier Vandewoude had written at the time that the sale was "a huge deal" for the company, "tak(ing) away all doubts about Exmar's balance sheet".
Built in 2017, the Tango LNG floating liquefaction facility will begin its activity in Congo in the second half of 2023 and become part of Eni's operations of the natural gas development project in the Marine XII block.
Exmar, which sees the charter agreement of its regasification unit (FSRU) for Gasunie's planned LNG Eemshaven terminal to deliver hire income from mid-August this year, also said it had received an order of two new build midsize liquefied petroleum gas (LPG)/ammonia carriers.
The delivery of these new vessels for $69 million each is set to take place at the end of 2024 or early 2025, the group added in an earnings statement.
Exmar posted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of 1.2 million euros, down from 61 million a year earlier.
(Reporting by Juliette Portala, editing by David Evans and Louise Heavens)