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Shipping major BW Group and investment manager PAG have formed a joint venture BW Pacific, and is purchasing 10 modern MR-size oil product tankers from Elandra, a company linked to Vitol Energy (Bermuda) Ltd., BW said in a statement Monday.

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BW Pacific will have a fleet of 20 MR and 17 LR1 tankers, which will be managed by the BW Group.

The two firms declined to reveal the value of the purchases.

"BW is pleased to form a joint venture with one of Asia's leading investment managers and to have PAG as a partner as we expand in the product tanker segment," BW Group CEO Andreas Sohmen-Pao, said.

The joint venture will allow the company to work on industry consolidation together with a strong financial partner, BW Group said.

"Product tankers are a core segment for BW, and we feel that a larger fleet, through a JV, will position us to provide a better service to our customers," it added.

The East of Suez clean tanker market for LR1s, or 55,000-79,999 dwt vessels, had shown strength in recent weeks on firmer demand from charterers to move naphtha cargoes and limited supply, following the weakness seen early April, market sources said.

Rates for MRs, or tankers 25,000-54,999 dwt in size, are also expected to recover on the back of firmer LR1 and LR2 markets for Persian Gulf and West Coast India loadings, while demand and supply of MRs in North Asia were heard to be balanced, sources said.

"This is a very interesting time in the cycle for the industry and our joint venture with BW presents our investors with a unique opportunity to capture the potential upside in a recovery while relying on the operational excellence of a true industry leader," Chris Gradel, founder and managing partner of PAG, said.

BW Group also said it has completed in end April, the purchase of shares held by tanker operator Heidmar in tanker pool operating company, WOMAR.

BW could not reveal the value of the purchase.

A pool operator handles a number of tankers grouped together for administrative purposes, with the profits collected and subsequently distributed to vessel owners on pre-arranged agreements.

Last November, BW Group listed its BW LPG unit on the Oslo stock exchange, which raised NOK1.7 billion ($277 million) from the initial public offering of 36.2 million shares.

BW Group operates a fleet of 113 owned, part-owned or controlled vessels in the tanker, gas and offshore segments.

--Ramthan Hussain,
--Edited by Irene Tang,

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