Saturday, April 4, 2015

The NYFEX Report: Dryships Sells Its Suezmax & Aframax Fleets

Last January Dryships Inc. (DRYS) filed an IPO registration statement with the SEC to spin-off its tanker fleet into a separate publicly traded company. Yesterday Dryships completely reversed course and announced instead the sale of its tanker fleet to entities related to CEO George Economou. It also formally withdrew its registration statement.

What prompted such stunning reversal is anyone’s guess, particularly since the transaction is between related-parties. It has been the worst kept secret on Wall Street that publicly traded shipping companies are rife with related-party transactions. I find such transactions an anathema to proper corporate governance. It is true that related-party transactions must be disclosed and executed at arm’s length. But company insiders always get to choose when to do them, and in shipping timing is key to financial success.

Allegations aside, is this a good deal to shareholders or not? In this article I will analyze the transaction from an arm’s length, cash flow and earnings point of view.

The company’s tanker fleet consists of four suezmax tankers with an average age of 2.9 years, and six aframax tankers with an average age of 3.2 years. The suezxmax tankers were sold en-bloc for $245 million, or an average price of $61.25 million per vessel.

The aframax tankers were also sold en-bloc for $291 million but on a contingent basis. By allowing the buyers to confirm the agreement by June 30th, 2015, Dryships effectively wrote a three-month call option at an average strike price of $48.5 million per vessel.

Dryships has been in dire financial straits for some time now. If both deals are consummated, they will provide the company with much needed free cash to the tune of $275 million, all in a relatively short amount of time. Yes, the originally proposed IPO would have alleviated any red flags from related-party transactions. It might have even achieved a better return for shareholders if the company had waited for the right timing. But I am afraid that Dryships does not have the luxury of time on its side. For this reason alone it might be better to deal with the devil you know than the devil you don’t. 

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Thursday, March 19, 2015

The NYFEX Report: A Survey of Suezmax Shipping Companies

In this installment of The NYFEX Report (a newsletter aiming to provide expert equity research analysis & commentary on the shipping industry) I will look into publicly trading companies that have material ownership interests in suezmax vessels.

The recent collapse in oil prices may have been bad news for oil producers but not so much for ship-owners. Tanker shipping companies have been the beneficiaries of increased demand for oil transportation to take advantage of low prices.

Another positive factor working in ship-owners favor is the moderate order book for new-building deliveries. This stands in sharp contrast to the dry cargo industry, which has been plagued by a chronic tonnage over-supply and still has a significant order book to digest.

Whether the increased demand for oil transportation is just temporary to replenish inventories at low prices or the beginning of a secular up-cycle remains to be seen. Until then tanker ship-owners can put a long-overdue smile in their faces and enjoy the ride.

Suezmaxes are million barrel tankers than are employed in a variety of medium-range trades. Despite the sharp reduction of North American imports from West Africa, suezmaxes have managed to develop new trading routes, particularly in Asia, and even compete in long-haul trades with VLCCs.

This article will provide a survey of publicly traded companies that own large suezmax fleets and can offer investors exposure to that particular market.

There are currently four such companies: Euronav (EURN), Nordic American Tankers (NAT), Frontline (FRO), and Tsakos Energy Navigation (TNP). I have also included in the survey privately held Principal Maritime (PMAR). Principal Maritime has filed a registration statement with the SEC for a pending IPO on the New York Stock Exchange.
 

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

North American Tankers: Is The Dividend Sustainable?

Nordic American Tankers (NAT) has been an attractive stock to yield-seeking investors for quite some time. The company last quarter raised its dividend to $0.22 per share from $0.14 per share. Based on yesterday’s closing price of $10.31, you can own a stock that currently yields 8.6%. Is this a good deal or not?

The company’s management likes to remind us that since NAT’s founding in 1997 it has paid a dividend for 70 consecutive quarters, which seems like an eternity in the shipping industry. The only problem is that if you decide to buy the stock today it will not be for its dividend history, but for its capacity to pay dividends in the future. 

In this article I will focus on the company’s dividend policy but instead of analyzing the past I will try to answer a more poignant question: Is the current dividend sustainable over the next five years? I will try to answer this question first by looking at the company’s capacity to generate cash from operations. But I will also look at the company’s fleet and the capital expenditure requirements to replace its ageing vessels.
 
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The Expensive Shipping News For Wall Street's Smart Money

The shipping industry, in particular the dry bulk sector, has provided an excellent, if somewhat expensive, education for Wall Street’s smart money over the past six years.
 

Here is the link to a recent Financial Times article on dry cargo shipping and private equity.
 

THE NYFEX Report: The IPO of Navios Maritime Midstream Partners

The IPO of Navios Maritime Midstream Partners (NAP) is the fourth public flotation by Navios Group, a conglomerate headed by Angeliki Frangou. It has been preceded by Navios Maritime Partners Inc. (NM), the group's holding company and flagship, Navios Maritime Partners L.P. (NMM), a master limited partnership with ownership interests in dry-cargo bulk carriers and container ships, and Navios Maritime Acquisition Corp. (NNA), an owner of crude oil & product carriers and sponsor of the recent IPO.
 

As with any master limited partnership, NAP has a sponsor or general partner, which holds a 2% interest, and limited partners that are called common unit holders. The sponsor of NAP is a subsidiary of Navios Maritime Acquisition Corp. Following the IPO, Navios Maritime Acquisition will own a 57.5% interest in the partnership, including the 2% general partner interest.
 

The partnership was formed to own crude oil tankers under long-term time charters, or employment contracts. Its initial fleet consists of four VLCCs, all acquired from the sponsor. Based on the IPO prospectus, the company aims to employ its vessels on long-term charters of at least five years.
 

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