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Baltic Trading Limited (NYSE:BALT)

Q3 2013 Earnings Conference Call

November 7, 2013 10:00 ET

Executives

Apostolos Zafolias - Investor Relations

Peter Georgiopoulos - Chairman

John Wobensmith - President and Chief Financial Officer

Analysts

Doug Mavrinac - Jefferies

Andrew Casella - Imperial Capital

Fotis Giannakoulis - Morgan Stanley

Operator

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Baltic Trading Limited Third Quarter 2013 Earnings Conference Call and Presentation. Before we begin, please note that there will be a slide presentation accompanying today’s conference call. That presentation can be obtained from Baltic Trading’s website at www.baltictrading.com. To inform everyone, today’s conference is being recorded and is now being webcast at the company’s website, www.baltictrading.com. We will conduct a question-and-answer session after the opening remarks. Instructions will follow at that time. (Operator Instructions) A replay of the conference will be accessible at any time during the next 2 weeks by dialing (888) 203-1112 or (719) 457-0820, and entering the passcode 9971772.

At this time, I would like to turn the conference over to the company. Please go ahead.

Apostolos Zafolias - Investor Relations

Good morning. Before we begin our presentation, I note that in this conference call, we will be making certain forward-looking statements pursuant to the Safe Harbor provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Such forward-looking statements use words such as anticipate, budget, estimate, expect, project, intend, plan, believe and other words and terms of similar meaning in connection with the discussion of potential future events, circumstances or future operating or financial performance.

These forward-looking statements are based on management’s current expectations and observations. To our discussion of factors that could cause results to differ, please see the company’s press release that was issued yesterday, the materials relating to this call posted on the company’s website, and the company’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including without limitation, the company’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2012, and the company’s subsequent reports filed with the SEC.

At this time, I would like to introduce John Wobensmith, the President and Chief Financial Officer of Baltic Trading Limited.

John Wobensmith - President and Chief Financial Officer

Thank you and good morning. Welcome to Baltic Trading’s third quarter 2013 conference call. With me today is our Chairman, Peter Georgiopoulos; and Apostolos Zafolias. I will begin today’s call by reviewing our third quarter highlights, as outlined on Slide 2 of the presentation, followed by a review of our financial results for the quarter. We will then discuss the industry’s current fundamentals and open up the call for questions.

Starting on Slide 4, the Baltic Trading’s highlights for the third quarter. During the third quarter, we expanded our modern and high quality fleet and strengthened our financial position while maintaining the ability to drive future performance upon further improvement in the prevailing rate environment. We also declared a dividend for the third quarter of $0.02 per share, increasing the cumulative dividend declared by the company to $1.06 per share since going public in March of 2010.

For the three months period ended September 30, 2013 Baltic Trading recorded a net loss of $2.3 million, or $0.08 basic and diluted loss per share. Baltic Trading’s cash position at the end of the third quarter was $61.9 million. during the third quarter we completed the acquisition of two Handysize vessels for an aggregate purchase price of approximately $41 million, by taking advantage of attractive assets prices we expanded our fleet approximately 10% on a tonnage basis.

Upon delivery in early September, the 2010-built Baltic Fox and the 2009-built Baltic Hare both entered the Clipper Logger Pool, a spot market-related Handysize pool operated by Clipper Bulk. In support of our growth initiatives, management has taken active measures to increase Baltic Trading’s financial flexibility. Specifically we also closed a new $22 million credit facility with a DBB bank and used the entire proceeds from the new facility combined with proceeds for our May 2013 equity offering to fund the acquisition of the Baltic Fox and the Baltic Hare. In addition, we mended our 2010 Credit Facility under favorable terms to allow for the incurrence of additional deck going forward.

We also completed a $63.5 million share offering during the third quarter. Additionally, as highlighted in Tuesday’s press release we agreed to acquire two 179,000 deadweight tons Capesize vessels in a non-block transaction for an aggregate purchase price of $103 million. this acquisition which is subject to definitive agreements underscores our ongoing success in taking advantage of an attractive acquisition environment and meeting the following objectives. First, we increased the company’s long-term earnings and dividend potential. Second, we enhanced the age profile of our modern fleet and third, we strengthened our future commercial prospects by expanding our presence in the important Capesize sector.

Combined the acquisition of the two Handysize vessels in September, this transaction will expand our high quality fleet by a total of approximately 63% on a deadweight tonnage basis, consistent with our fleet deployment and strategy we intend to secure both vessels on spot market-related time charters prior to their expected delivery before the end of the current fourth quarter.

In terms of financing, we plan to fund this acquisition in part through the proceeds from our $63.5 million share offering completed in September. For the remainder of the purchase price we are in negotiations to obtain a commitment of commercial bank financing from a global lending institution. As we continue to capitalized on favorable growth opportunities, management remains committed to preserving a sound capital structure for the benefit of shareholders

Turning to Slide 5, we provide an overview of our fleet. In expanding our fleet, we have maintained our focus on acquiring first-in-class vessels that meet the highest industry standards. Upon delivery of the 2 Capesize vessels, Baltic will own a fleet of 13 vessels consisting of 4 Capesize, 4 Supramax and 5 Handysize vessels, with a total carrying capacity of approximately 1 million deadweight tons that’s on the average age of our fleet will be 3.7 years, far below the world average of approximately 10 years.

All of our current vessels trade on spot market-related time charters at multinational charters, enabling Baltic Trading to maximize utilization, while earning rates closely correlated with the various Baltic Dry indices as well as capitalize on the positive long-term demand for essential commodities in developed countries such as China and India. During the third quarter we’ve reached an agreement to enter the Baltic Panther and the Baltic Cougar both 2009-built Supramax vessels into the Bulkhandling Handymax Pool, a vessel pool trading in the spot market.

Turning to Slide 6, we provide our 2013-2014 drydocking schedules. In our continuous effort to provide superior service to customers and enhance our long-term commercial prospects, we have initiated a fuel efficiency upgrade program for certain of our vessels. We believe this program will generate considerable fuel savings going forward and increase the future earnings potential for these vessels. The cost of the upgrades, which will be performed at the same time as the planned vessel drydocking, is expected to be approximately $250,000 per vessel and is included in our estimated drydocking costs as outlined on the slide.

Turning to Slide 8, we present our financial results. For the third quarter and nine-month period ended September 30, 2013, the company generated revenues of $9.1 million and $21.5 million, respectively. This compares to revenues for the third quarter of 2012 and the 9 months ended September 30, 2012 of $6.3 million and $20.2 million, respectively. The increase in revenues for the third quarter of 2013 compared to the prior year period is due to higher spot market rates achieved by our Capesize vessels and the increase in the size of our fleets.

The company recorded a net loss for the third quarter of 2013 of $2.3 million, or $0.08 basic and diluted loss per share. The net loss for the 9 months ended September 30, 2013 was $12 million, or $0.46 basic and diluted loss per share. This compares to a net loss of $4.8 million, or $0.22 basic and diluted loss per share, for the third quarter of 2012, and a net loss of $12.9 million, or $0.58 basic and diluted loss per share, for the 9-month period ended September 30, 2012.

Key balance sheet items, as presented on Slide 9, include the following: Our cash position increased to $61.9 million as of September 30, 2013, our total assets as of September 30, 2013 were $457.4 million, consisting primarily of cash and cash equivalents in our 11-vessel fleet. Our EBITDA for the three months ended September 30, 2013 was $2.7 million which represents an EBITDA margin of 30% of revenues.

Moving to Slide 10, our utilization rate was 99% for the third quarter of 2013 compared to 99.2% in the year-earlier period. Our time charter equivalent rate for the third quarter of 2013 was $9,984. This compares to $7,193 recorded in the third quarter of 2012. The increase in time charter equivalent rates resulted from higher spot rates achieved in the third quarter of 2013 versus the same period last year for the Capesize vessels in our fleet partially offset by the operation of our two newly acquired smaller class vessels delivered in September of 2013 our daily vessel operating expenses decreased to $4,805 per day versus $5,171 per vessel per day for the third quarter of 2012, while we are pleased that our daily vessel operating expenses for the third quarter of 2013 were below budget due to lower expenses related to improving stores and supplies we believe daily vessel operating expenses are best measured for comparative purposes over a 12-month period in order to take into account all the expenses that each vessel will incur over a full year of operation. Based on estimates provided by our technical managers and management’s expectations, our daily vessel operating expense budget for 2013 is $5,400 per vessel per day on a weighted-average basis.

On Slide 11, we discussed our dividend for the third quarter. As I mentioned earlier, Baltic Trading declared a third quarter dividend of $0.02 per share. The dividend is payable on or about November 22, 2013, to all shareholders of record on November 18, 2013. Baltic Trading has declared cumulative dividends of $1.06 per share since completing its $228 million IPO in March of 2010.

On Slide 12, we present our anticipated break-even levels for expenses. For the steadfast approach to controlling cost is contributed to Baltic Trading’s success in achieving low break-even levels. For the fourth quarter of 2013, we estimate our daily vessel operating expenses to be $5,400 per vessel per day on a weighted basis of an average number of 11.7 vessels for the quarter. We expect our daily free cash flow break-even to be $9,427 per day and our daily net income break-even to be $12,773.

I will now turn the call over to Apostolos to discuss the industry fundamentals.

Apostolos Zafolias - Investor Relations

Thank you, John. I’ll start with Slide 14, which points the drybulk indices. Represented on this slide is the overall Baltic Dry index. As can be seen on the graph a slow but gradual rebound commenced in the beginning of the third quarter while September quarterly renewal time high for Chinese iron ore imports pushing Capesize rates to a peak of $42,000 per day the highest levels seen in almost three years. The leading factor behind the strong increase in freight rates were a combination of moderated supply growth an increased iron ore volumes are Brazil and Australia on the back of higher Chinese steel production.

Overall although we believe there is still remains excess vessel supply in the market, the performance of Baltic Dry index illustrates that the declining pace of fleet growth has enabled freight rates to be more responsive to increases in cargo demand as market-wide fleet utilization improves.

On Slide 15, we’ll further look into some of the contributing factors that arise in the BDI, as summarize other recent developments in the drybulk freight market. On the demand side, iron ore trade continues to be a focal point of drybulk trade as demand for steel continues to drive increase the imports of the commodity into China.

Chinese steel production recorded an 8% increase through the first 9 months of the year. Leading to a 9% increase of iron ore imports and a new monthly record of 74.6 million tons in September. The increased dependency of imported ore continues to be a positive catalyst for freight rates. Increased volumes were seen from both long-term ton miles sources namely Brazil and Australia during the third quarter. A 112 million tons of our imported commodity was sourced from Australia during the third quarter representing a 22% year-over-year increase and the expansion plans from BHP, Rio Tinto and Fortescue resulted in record quarterly production figures for all miners.

Brazil exported just under 90 million tons of ore during the quarter, recording a 17% increase when compared to the previous quarter and a 9% increase over the third quarter of 2012. at the same time inventories at Chinese ports have slightly increased to 79.1 million tons, but still stand 9.4 million tons lower than the same time last year as steel production remained strong. Smaller class vessels also saw a relative improvement in earnings during the third quarter. Both Panamax and Supramax vessels benefited from strong demand for Chinese coal imports as well as strong Atlantic rail movements.

On the supply side, we have seen an ongoing deceleration of new building deliveries since the peak in June of 2012. for the 9 months to September of 2013 deliveries were 43% lower as compared to the same period last year. Lastly, we believe that as global growth prospects and sentiments and the rest of the world are beginning to improve, existing vessel availability could be absorbed by traditional raw material importers like Japan, Europe and South Korea. The Bank of Japan recently revised its GDP growth forecast for 2014 to 1.5% while manufacturing activity and factory output grew at a faster pace in over 3 years during October.

Turning to Slide 16. We outlined a number of short and long-term catalysts that we believe will impact the drybulk market. One of these catalysts is expected to be the long-haul iron ore trade from Brazil to China. Since 2010, iron ore exports from Brazil have peaked in the fourth quarter of every year. Although ore prices through the quarter have remained around $130 per ton limiting arbitrage opportunities we continue to believe that incremental ore capacity entering the market could result in the displacement of Chinese domestic ore was imported. Brazil and Australia also produced higher quality ore than China produces (indiscernible). As a result of the Chinese government attempting to reduce submissions higher quality raw materials from international sources are likely to be in greater demand. On the coal front, we believe that the return of Colombia to the export market following the Drummond strike during the third quarter will result in strengthening of exports for their remainder of this year and into 2014.

Additionally, we consider the Indian coal trade will be a significant catalyst moving forward. To date, India has experienced substantial increases in steam coal imports as electricity needs a rise. According to Clarkson’s India’s steel and coal imports are projected to rise by 17% in 2013 to 143 million tons. Going forward, we also believe that India’s increased steel production could result in higher coking coal imports due to the lack of high-quality domestic reserves. On the supply side, scrapping of older tonnage and slippage of new building contracts remain important factors of slowing fleet growth. 18.2 million deadweight tons has been demolished year-to-date as compared to 33.6 million deadweight tons for the entire year of 2013.

On Slide 16, we talk more about the demand side fundamentals. September was another strong month for steel in China, as monthly production increased by 11% year-over-year to 65.4 million tons, bringing year-to-date steel production to 587 million tons. The large increase has predominantly been driven by firm infrastructure investment and real estate development. Although preliminary data production for October shows a slight decline in steel production, steel stockpiles have also reduced and prices have stabilized. Steel production is expected to be approximately 780 million tons in 2013, and focused to be over 800 million tons in 2014.

Japan and India also experienced healthy growth in steel production during September increasing by 5.5% and 4.7% respectively. Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry forecasts Q4 2013 production to increase by nearly 10% year-over-year helped by widening domestic auto demand. The World Steel Association project India’s steel demand to grow by 5.6% in 2014 aided by terms to implement structural reforms.

Moving on Slide 17, on the left side of the page, will show the expansion plans of key iron ore producers as recently revised by their respective companies. The combined expansion plans through 2017 aggregates a 395 million tons per annum, or approximately 36% of 2012 seaborne ore trade.

Most of the projected growth in export capacity in 2013 and 2014 is expected to come from Australia, specifically in miners Rio Tinto, Fortescue and BHP Billiton. As a result, Australia’s Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics forecasts an increase in iron ore exports of 16% in 2013 and 17% in 2014. As more ore comes to the market and the price arbitrage potentially widens, we believe Chinese domestic producers are going to have a difficult time competing internationally particularly due to their high production cost and the lower grade of domestic ore.

On Slide 19, we discuss the trends and supply side fundamentals. As seen on the bottom left of the page, the current order book for 2014 through 2016 less contracts prior to 2009 is 14% of the fleet. It is our opinion that new building vessels contracted prior to 2009 which totaled 15.6 million deadweight tons or 12% of the order book, have a low likelihood of delivering at this point given the above market nature of this contract as well as the difficulty to obtain financing. Additionally, it is our view that availability for 2015 deliveries at high-quality shipyards is limited, as there are few slots remaining, if any, at the current time. This development would help put a ceiling on the order books for 2015 and limit fleet growth to just the existing orders over the next 2 years.

Lastly, we note that although excess vessel supplier remained at flat during the market, strong fleet growth coupled with projected demand growth are encouraging signs towards reestablishing a more balanced long-term supply-and-demand equation.

This concludes our presentation, and we will now be happy to take your questions.

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

(Operator Instructions) And we’ll take our first question from Doug Mavrinac with Jefferies.

Doug Mavrinac – Jefferies

Great, thank you operator. Good morning again guys. Just had a few follow-ups. First, obviously you guys have gone on the offensive, over the last six months you’ve made some acquisitions handful months ago was in the Handy asset class, but a couple of days ago you announced an acquisition of a couple of Capes, my question is, what was it about those Capes that appealed to you to pull the trigger on, is it a consorted effort to – get within a bigger asset class or is part of a portfolio approach where it was just an attractive opportunity that you’ve decided to put once again to pull the trigger on?

Peter Georgiopoulos

Look as we’ve said in the past we’ve liked that portfolio approach and at different times we see different assets, our price will be vis-à-vis their earnings would meet the ships we think it was unique opportunity to get two Korean-built Capes as you know Doug, Korea most modern brand new Capes are being built in China there are very few built that as you all like Hyundai, because the Korean like Hyundai and Samsung and Daewoo have moved more towards more specialized ships. So, that too very modern, excellent condition from an excellent owner that we though was the right price, we thought it was very unique opportunity, it was a private off market deal again so it’s been a hallmark of our business we don’t like to compete in auctions someone came to us on a Friday we were done by Monday.

Doug Mavrinac – Jefferies

Wow, great. That’s very, very helpful Peter. And as a follow to that, have you guys done the math or the work on just on the previous 10-Q call we talked about rates getting very may be back to mid-cycle levels, so does that returned to normalcy and putting a 12% cash-on-cash return, which one to be willing to pay under that type of scenario, would the ships will be worth in a normal market? What’s the another way were that going to appreciate too?

John Wobensmith

Yeah, sure you take a $30,000 a day mid-cycle rate as whatever 12%, 13% return on capital a year it’s $75 million.

Doug Mavrinac – Jefferies

Right, right so 50% outside from here.

John Wobensmith

Yeah on asset prices, yeah.

Doug Mavrinac – Jefferies

Yeah, okay. I knew it was deep but that’s very helpful John. Now, whenever you guys are talking about growing the company and you keeping an eye on the balance sheet, my next question come at two-fold one, on the individual transaction, how are you thinking about the targeted debt ratio and then two, within the context buying assets on the cheap, how do you continue to think about just the overall targeted debt ratio?

John Wobensmith

Yeah I mean these ships will be financed somewhere around 50% which is just like what we did on the Handysize and that’s the target for the company at this point.

Doug Mavrinac – Jefferies

Got you, got you. Okay perfect, thank you. And then just final question obviously it be a remiss on mentioning the doubling of the dividend going from $0.01 to $0.02, but we also look at kind of how charter rates have improved since the third quarter I mean, 3Q we had the Cape rates higher, but since the 4Q we’ve had the smaller assets classes playing some catch-up and that’s where up until the most recent transaction that you guys completed that’s where most of your ships operated, so is that relates to the dividend can you remind us about your dividend policy going forward whether it’s earnings payout or whether you’re going to hold some back or just going to how, we’ve seen an increase and we’ve seen charter rates continue to increase on the fourth quarter, how do you guys think about that dividend?

John Wobensmith

Yeah I mean look the payout is net income, but as you pointed out over the last few quarters we’ve elected to payout a portion of cash flow. We think it’s important to keep the dividend in place, this is not just a growth story, but the dividend returned to shareholders is also important. And so, we’re going to look at it quarter-by-quarter but obviously in an improving rate environment the goal is to continue to move the dividend up, but we have to see what the quarter brings, when we get to December 31.

Doug Mavrinac – Jefferies

Excellent, very helpful great job and thanks for the time.

John Wobensmith

Thank you Doug.

Operator

And we’ll take our next question from Andrew Casella with Imperial Capital.

Andrew Casella - Imperial Capital

Hi, thanks for taking the questions. Just housekeeping item. On the additional banker facilities, do you need to seek further amendments from your lender group and can you give us a sense of how expensive those waivers are doing additional indebtedness?

John Wobensmith

No.

Peter Georgiopoulos

There is no waivers.

John Wobensmith

No.

Peter Georgiopoulos

We don’t do that either.

John Wobensmith

Yeah.

Andrew Casella - Imperial Capital

Okay.

John Wobensmith

I mean, the waiver that we did under the Nordea facility was not a one-time waiver, it’s in perpetuity. So we can incur additional bank debt without actually having to talk to anyone there as.

Andrew Casella - Imperial Capital

Okay, got it, And then, I know there is some commissions you need to pay I think to Genco related to the acquisitions of the vessels, is that inclusive of the one or three or what should we be thinking about as far as 103 fee is associated with the acquisition?

John Wobensmith

Yeah it’s a 1% fee that tabled to Genco on that 103 for doing the work on the acquisition.

Andrew Casella - Imperial Capital

Got it. and just finally in the longer-term I guess what, how do you kind of think about timing of additional acquisitions going forward, are you guys kind of thinking you’re done in the near-term or are there other asset class as you’re kind of going to focus on the follow?

John Wobensmith

Yeah I mean look we’re going to continue to be opportunistic, we’ll see what, how the market bears out and what’s available.

Andrew Casella - Imperial Capital

Got it. That’s helpful. Congratulations on the quarter.

John Wobensmith

Thank you.

Operator

And a reminder again (Operator Instructions) And we go next to Fotis Giannakoulis with Morgan Stanley.

Fotis Giannakoulis - Morgan Stanley

Yes, good morning and thank you.

John Wobensmith

Good morning.

Fotis Giannakoulis - Morgan Stanley

I want to ask you about your acquisitions, we’ve seen that you have built a very young fleet of Supramaxes, Handys and Capsizes, but we haven’t seen any Panamax yet. Is it just random or you purposely excluded Panamaxes from your fleet?

John Wobensmith

No I think it’s just I think it’s what opportunities that we found and we found opportunities at Panamax as we would jump on it.

Fotis Giannakoulis - Morgan Stanley

Okay. Okay, that’s very clear. Thank you. And I want to ask about the seasonality in the market. We saw a very strong rally for Capesize vessels during the summer, these rallies seems to have subsided in the last few weeks. How long do you think it’s going to take until we see rates moving higher again and in which asset classes this will be more evident?

John Wobensmith

Yeah I mean first of all Fotis keep in mind that yeah we’ve, rates have moved down from $40,000 high as but there still $20,000 a day on the index which are return on capital, pretty decent rates. I think that from a seasonal standpoint we could see a little bit of softness in the first quarter, but remained to be seen it’s a little different this time than it was last year and that the iron ore inventory levels are much lower than they were last year. And, who knows what’s going to happen first quarter from a weather standpoint but the last couple of years that’s driven down the rates, but I think the biggest thing is now that we’ve got a different dynamic on the supply and demand meaning supply has really tapered off and demand overall starting to exceed supply. The Capesize vessels in particular are now responding again to movements in cargo where the last couple of years we haven’t really seen that which obviously I think it’s much healthier now.

On the smaller vessels, I think we’re going to continue to see some firm rates as the grain season proves to be better than what was expected even a few months ago. and then we get into the Latin American grain season which at least at first glance looks to be a better year also. And then overall I mean I know I may be going on, but here we’re so focused on China but you also have to look at what’s happening in Europe and today Mittal came out and thought steel industry had brought him from a global standpoint and they expect to see a turnaround in 2014. and so I think you have to pay attention to Europe and what’s happening there because that just adds incremental demand particularly on the iron ore front and the coal front.

Fotis Giannakoulis - Morgan Stanley

Thank you, John. One last question about the steel market, we’ve seen this tremendous growth in crude steel production in China, it seems that to some degree it might have even exceeded the demand which is quite good anyway. Have you seen, given the very high capacity – steel capacity in China, have you seen any exports of steel to other countries? Is there any new trade that it might be developing with exports of steel rather than only having imports of iron ore from China?

John Wobensmith

Well I don’t think it’s a new trade I think we’re just going back to a more healthy steel market. So, yes we are seeing exports. But I don’t think it’s something yeah in terms of the last year or two it’s come back but it’s not new I mean obviously China exported quite a bit of steel in 2006-2007 and even 2008. but I also think the interesting thing is, a lot of people not a lot of people, some people as you correctly pointed out think that may be it was a little over down the demand side, but you look at what’s happening in cement production as well. Cement production is really started to take off which I think goes to show you the fundamental demand for the steel industry is there.

Fotis Giannakoulis - Morgan Stanley

Okay. Thank you very much for your answers.

John Wobensmith

Thank you Fotis.

Operator

And at this time, there are no more questions. This concludes the Baltic Trading conference call. Thank you. And have a nice day.

John Wobensmith - President and Chief Financial Officer

Thank you.

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