February 3 - Maritime & Merchant AS (M&M) has received regulatory approval to operate a private bank in Norway, which will be dedicated to meeting the funding needs of owners active in the shipping and offshore industries worldwide.

HLPFI reported on October 11, 2013 that the founders of M&M were planning to set up the specialist bank for shipping and offshore, and following the filing for a banking license application on November 13, 2013, its application has been approved.

M&M will be a highly specialised niche financial institution focused on the maritime and offshore industries with an emphasis on providing mortgage based lending.

The introduction of stricter capital requirements, in combination with the severe impact the financial crisis had on the banking community in general, has forced many banks to either discontinue lending to owners or scale back on actives in ship finance.

"There are interesting opportunities out there, with a market emerging from a down cycle, favourable asset prices, and, currently, increasing rates in some sectors," said Halvor Sveen, managing director of M&M.

"We are currently preparing for a capital issue with a target of USD300-350 million in equity to fund operations. We have selected Pareto Securities AS and DNB Markets as joint lead managers and bookrunners, with Cleave Securities to act as financial advisor. We aim to start operations during April 2014," added Sveen.