V.Financial, the shipping finance business of V.Group, has entered into partnership with a wholly-owned subsidiary of investment bank Merrill Lynch to launch V.Funds.

V.Funds is a unique source of leveraged private equity financing for the shipping industry which is commencing activities during the fourth quarter 2007. The partners have structured the fund for scalability in anticipation of robust demand.

While mainly focusing on tanker, containership and dry cargo sectors, V.Funds will consider other vessel types as well as other marine/offshore assets. It will offer financial and operating leases to ship operators and existing owners seeking sale and leaseback arrangements while simultaneously providing fund investors with well-balanced risk/return ratios.

Jesper Clausen, CEO of V.Financial, commented, “Our partnership with Merrill Lynch is a turning point for V.Financial, enabling us to substantially broaden our service portfolio. It also complements V.Financial’s current portfolio of financial services in the German KG and Nordic KS markets. We are now able to offer our clients access to an even wider range of financing options.”

“Our new partnership with Merrill Lynch is a logical match, combining Merrill Lynch’s considerable funding capacity with V.Financial’s shipping expertise and successful five-year track record providing financial services to the industry,” commented V.Group President & CEO Donald Anderson. “This is an important step in the strategic development of both V.Financial and V.Group by helping us realise our objective to be a one-stop shop for a full range of shipping industry support services.”

Since its inception in 2002, V.Financial has completed transactions in excess of $2.0 billion across most shipping sectors.