The Navios group cruised through the financial crisis and recession with relative ease, even though the share prices tanked. The companies have managed to raise about $3-billion (U.S.) in debt and equity since September, 2008, the month of the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Bank debt was replaced by bonds, Navios vessels secured long contracts, providing cash flow stability, operating costs were trimmed by doing repairs at sea instead of shipyards and Ms. Frangou pioneered the use of credit default insurance, which protected her business when post-crunch customers could not meet their contract commitments. Meanwhile, Navios bought foreclosed ships from creditors at knock-down prices.
Her companies are now attracting “outperform” ratings from some analysts, including those at the Royal Bank of Canada, in spite of their financial complexity. Ms. Frangou is predicting a shipping rebound, but won’t hazard a guess as to when that will happen. “After a crisis, the market will go up and whoever survives will be very wealthy,” she says.
Meanwhile Ms. Frangou is making plans to expand – she is now loading up on container ships and working with a domestic economic think tank to find ways to create more shipping jobs for Greeks. She claims that most of the job growth in her country has come about by padding the bureaucracy – “in essence creating non-productive people.” She believes that busting the powerful Greek shipping union would create tens of thousands of jobs.
Taxation is another matter. Neither Navios nor other Greek shipping companies pay a Greek income tax, though a small levy based on the ships’ tonnage has been introduced.
Does Ms. Frangou think it’s fair that Greece’s biggest and best-known industry is legally allowed to escape taxation as the country grinds its way through a protracted recession? “To be honest, yes,” she says. “If I am taxed here and have to compete internationally, I cannot compete. Then I close my business.”
Daughter of Captain Nikolas Frangos, a fourth-generation ship owner.
Divorced; mother of Nicolas, age 1½, who travels the world with her.
Spends one-third of her time in Athens, a third in New York and a third elsewhere.
Owns houses in Athens, Chios, Monaco and New York.
Loves opera, especially Puccini’s Turandot, and collects Greek, Byzantine and Chinese antiquities.
Bought her first ship, the Fulvia, in 1990, with a loan from her father.
Navios Maritime Holdings joins NYSE in 2005 through a reverse merger of one-time shipping fleet of U.S. Steel.
Floats Navios Partners and Navios Acquisition on NYSE in 2007 and 2008, respectively.
Named Commodore of the Year by Connecticut Maritime Association in 2011.
On the Greek crisis: “As a country, we can create beautiful things. We need to cut red tape, we need to have a transparent political system and politicians cannot have immunity [from prosecution].”
On personal wealth: “It’s about the challenge. If it was about the money, I could have inherited from my father and done nothing and had a more relaxing time.”
On business style: “What we care about is being a disciplined buyer. I can tell you that in 2012, I looked at more deals than ever in my life, and I did nothing.”