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Greece-based dry bulk shipping company DryShips has agreed to enter into a zero cost option agreement (LPG option agreement) to purchase up to four very large gas carriers (VLGCs) with an aim to expand its presence in the gas carrier market.

As part of the deal, which was signed with companies controlled by DryShips chairman and CEO George Economou, DryShips will have three months to exercise four separate options, to buy up to the four VLGCs at $83.5m per vessel.

If all the four options are exercised, the total purchase price of the VLGC fleet will be $334m.

"We believe in the long-term prospects of the gas carrier market."

The VLGCs, which have the ability to carry liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), are currently being built at South Korean shipyard Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI).

Economou said: “We believe in the long-term prospects of the gas carrier market. Having the option to acquire a fleet of four sister ships of very high specifications, ready for delivery in the near term and chartered to major industry players, provides us with a unique opportunity to enter this new segment in a solid footing that can be a stepping stone for further expansion.

“If the company elects to exercise any of its options, each acquisition will be highly accretive to the company’s earnings and will provide visible and stable cash flow at above market rates.”

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DryShips’ independent directors have already approved the deal, which will be funded with cash.

The company will also use its undrawn liquidity under a new Sifnos revolver, and proceeds from its previously announced issuer managed equity transaction.

Upon completion of the new deal, the four VLGCs will be managed by TMS Cardiff Gas and will be employed on long-term charters to major oil companies and oil traders.

Currently, DryShips has a fleet of 13 Panamax dry bulk carriers and six offshore supply vessels.