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Star Bulk Carrier Corps (NASDAQ:SBLK)

Q4 2010 Earnings Call

February 23, 2011 08:30 am ET

Executives

Mr. Petros Pappas -- Chairman of the Board of Directors

Mr. Spyros Caprolos -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Mr. George Syllantavos, Chief Financial Officer

Analysts

Noah Parquette - Cantor Fitzgerald

Doug Garber - FBR Capital Markets

Operator

Welcome to the Star Bulk conference call on the fourth quarter 2010 financial results. We have with us Mr. Petros Pappas, Chairman of the Board of Directors, Mr. Spyros Caprolos, President and Chief Executive Officer, and Mr. George Syllantavos, Chief Financial Officer of the company. (Operator Instructions.)

We now pass the floor to one of your speakers today, Mr. Paul (inaudible) Vice President of Capital Link. Please go ahead sir.

Paul

Thank you, I would like to remind that the company publically released our financial results last night, Tuesday, February 22, 2011 after the market closed in New York, where it is available to download, along with today's presentation, on the Star Bulk Carriers website, which is www.starbulk.com. If you do not have a copy of the press release or presentation, you may contact us, the Investor Relation advisor for Star Bulk carriers, at 212-661-7566 and they will be happy to fax or email a copy to you. This conference is also being webcast, and it is user controlled and can be accessed through Star Bulk's website. I must advise you this conference is being recorded today, Wednesday, February 23, 2011. I would like now to hand over the floor to your first speaker today, Mr. Spyros Capralos. Please go ahead Sir.

Spyros Capralos

Thank you Paul, and good morning ladies and gentlemen. I am Spyros Capralos, the newly appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of Star Bulk Carriers. Welcome to the Star Bulk conference call to discuss the fourth quarter and full year ended December 31, 2010 financial results. Along with me today to discuss our financial results is the Chairman of the company’s Board of Directors and major shareholder, Mr. Petros Pappas, and our Chief Financial Officer, Mr. George Syllantavos.

Before we begin today’s presentation, I would like to pass the floor to Mr. Pappas for an opening statement.

Petros Pappas

Thank you Spyros, and good morning ladies and gentlemen. Following Mr. Tsirigakis’ departure from our company, our Board elected Mr. Spyros Capralos as our new President and CEO. Spyros is a very prominent personality both in Greece and internationally, with extensive banking, and more importantly, capital markets background. Having served as the CEO of the Athens Stock Exchange and as a Chairman of the Federation of European Stock exchanges among many other important positions that he has held.

I feel we have chosen a strong person for this position, and I believe that the timing is very crucial, as I expect two years of challenge and opportunity to arrive in the Star Bulk horizon. Challenge because of the full order book of vessels coming forth and opportunity because the essence of shipping is investing at times when harvest prices are low. To turn challenge to opportunity, one needs to have a strong team put together; I’m therefore intending to support him whole heartedly, and although my role is that of a non-executive Chairman of the Board of Star Bulk, my intention is to align my family’s private interest with interest of the public company and chip in my 33 years experience in this sector to assist this company to rise from a challenging period stronger in every possible respect.

We are in this together, and we are committed to the enhancement of Star Bulk reviving. In this shareholder value building effort, we will not spare any effort based on our experience, our expertise, our well-established industry contracts, our goodwill, and our creativity. I would now like to pass the floor to Mr. Capralos to continue with the presentation of the company’s financial results. Thank you.

Spyros Capralos

Thank you, Petros. Before we begin, I kindly ask you to take a moment to read the Safe Harbor statement on slide two of the presentation. While you do that, and before we commence the earnings presentation, I would like at this time to introduce myself. Before joining Star Bulk, I served as Chairman of the Athens Exchange and Chief Executive Officer of the Hellenic Exchanges. Prior to this, I held executive positions for (inaudible) Olympic games in Greece, following a bank career with the National Bank of Greece and the (inaudible ) Group, as well as a ten year international banking career with the Bankers Trust Company, now Deutsche Bank, in Paris, New York, Athens, Milan, and London.

I’m starting my tenure at a challenging time for the shipping industry, and in particular in the dry bulk sector, characterized by a substantial supply of vessels, softening of rates, but also growing demand and continued recovery of industrial economies. I believe as my capital markets experience will be valuable assets in the continued development of Star Bulk, and maximization of shareholder value. In the months to come, I intend to meet analysts and investors on road shows and conferences. That will give me the opportunity to discuss further Star Bulk’s strategic issues and developments.

Ladies and gentlemen, let us now turn to slide number three of the presentation to discuss some important financial data. On this slide, we’ll present certain key data illustrative of why we continue to believe that while Star Bulk continues to enjoy a very comfortable financial position, it remains substantially undivided. As of yesterday, our minimum customer contracted revenue was approximately $195 million, and our market capitalization stood at $155 million. We estimate a charter-free value of our fleet to be about $361 million and the charter adjusted volume to be about $400 million. These figures include approximately $64 million of down payments for our two new building Capesize vessels, consisting of around $43 million of company cash, as well as $31.5 million draw down from our new loans.

Our senior debt currently stands at about $223 million and our current capitalization is approximately $38 million. According to the above, Star Bulk’s net asset value amounts to $215 million, or $3.39 per share, based on our charter adjusted fleet valuation. Based on a share price of $2.45 at yesterday’s close, our price to net asset value ratio stands at 72%. I would like to raise the rate that Star Bulk has resisted exposure to interest rate flux and has therefore taken the full benefit of the prevailing low interest rates.

We are also very pleased with the fact that our principal repayment commitments for this year are down by around 50% compared to last year, since our loan repayment schedules were intentionally front loaded. Specifically, during 2010, our loan repayments stood at $68 million, while our repayment commitments for 2011, 2012, and 2013 are $34, $32, and $31 million respectively. Please turn to slide four, to discuss our Q4 and full year ended December 31, 2010 financial highlights.

For Q4 2010, gross revenue amounted to $51.9 million and net income amounted to $20.7 million. Excluding non-cash items, our net income for Q4 2010 amounted to $23.8 million. Adjusted EBITDA for Q4 was $37.3 million, while average daily operating expenses were $6,059 per day per vessel. The TCE for Q4 2010 was $26, 644 per day. The adjusted net income of $23.8 million represents $0.38 earnings per share, basic and diluted, which is significantly above consensus. I would like to point out that most analysts, in their reports, do not include the $23.2 million the company received for the settlement of the Star Epsilon related claim, as it is considered a one time (inaudible) item. Nonetheless, these funds received comprised a very real part of our current NAV.

For the full year ended December 31, 2010, gross revenues amounted to $121 million, net loss was $5.1 million, which includes a non-cash impairment charge of $35 million previously reported in Q2 of 2010, due to the sale of the Star Beta. Excluding non cash items, our net income for the full year 2010, as adjusted, amounted to $137.1 million. Adjusted EBITDA for the full year 2010 was $89.5 million, while the average daily OpEx were $5,630 per day per vessel. The TCE for the full year 2010 was $26,859 per day. The adjusted net income of $37.1 million represents $0.60 earnings per share, basic and diluted.

Turning to slide number five, I would like to provide an update on our company’s recent developments. For the quarter ended December 31, 2010, we declared our seventh consecutive dividend of $0.05 per share. As the market closed on February 22, 2011, this reflects approximately an 8.2% annualized yield. In regards to our two new capesize new buildings, we are pleased to enjoy the continued support of our senior debt lenders for our growth plans and to have demonstrated the ability to source competitive financing. In this context, we signed commitment letters with a major European bank for senior debt financing for both (inaudible) sized vessels, currently under construction for up to 65% of the vessels price, at favorable financing cost and terms.

The lowest capital remaining payment will shift down for both vessels; therefore Star Bulk is not required to contribute to any of additional equity, until their completion. We also recently announced we entered into a time charter contract with Nordon for the Star Epsilon for one year, plus an option for one additional year at the gross daily rate of $16,100. With the new contract, we’ll contribute a minimum of $5.8 million to a maximum of $10.6 million in gross revenues.

Currently, our fleet is contracted for 69% of 2011 operating days. This number includes the KSC charter of Star Gamma until December 2011. In addition, the Star Cosmo and Star Epsilon after having completed the previous charters are now operating in the spot market and we’re opportunistically looking to fit these vehicles with long term contracts as the rate environment improves. Regarding KSC, the Korean Shipping Company, which applied for court receivership, we’re closely monitoring the developments on these proceedings, and we will pursue the balance of all amounts owed to our company. For more information regarding this matter, we have issued a press release which is available on our website.

Turning to slide number six, I would like to point out in this slide that since we instituted the dividend in Q2 2009, we have rewarded shareholders with a meaningful yield, which currently is the highest within the dry bulk industry at 8.2%. As you can see on the graph, only five out of 11 of the dry bulk companies distributed dividends to their shareholders, with Star Bulk having currently the highest dividend. I would like to remind our investors that Star Bulk is one of the few companies in the dry bulk industry that has paid dividends for 11 out of the 13 quarters since inception three years ago.

Moving to slide seven, here we illustrate Star Bulk’s growth properties. As you can see in the two graphs, we have managed to organically grow the regional fleet of vessels under 700,000 DWT, to 13 vessels and over, 1.32 million DWT, including our two new building capes, within three years of going public. This means that including our current impending contracts, we achieved fleet growth of 86% in terms of dead weight, and 63% in terms of vessels. I would like to underline that this growth was achieved without significant dilution, while it is also worth noting that in the process of growing our fleet, we have also been renewing it. During this period, we have sold three of our oldest ships, and bought six younger vessels, while we have also starting building two new capesize to be delivered late in 2011.

Our cash and debt situation gave us an opportunity for further growth, by conducting our credit transactions in the future. Slide eight illustrates the fleet (inaudible) chart and contracted parties, which we also post in the investor management on our website. I won’t go into further details, as we feel it to be self-explanatory. With many charters expiring within 2011, we’re aiming opportunistically to recharter our vessels as the trade goods environment improves. If you will now turn to slide nine, we’ll provide another view of our (inaudible). Mr. George Syllantavos, our CFO, will now discuss our financials and give you an update on the market developments. George?

George Syllantavos

Thank you Spyros, and good morning to everyone. Let us now move to slide 11 for the view of our balance sheet as of December 31, 2010. Current assets were $23.9 million; our fixed assets amounted to $654.3 million and total assets amounted to $703 million. Current liability is worth $43.2 million, while non-current liabilities amounted to $171.8 million, and stockholders equity was then $488.3 million.

If you can now turn to slide 12 to discuss the fiscal year 2010 income statement list, I would like to point out that the 2010 results include non-cash items amounting to a total of $42 million, which is depicted in the middle column, and the adjusted figures exclude these non-cash items. For the fiscal year 2010, total revenue amounted to $121 million and our operating income amounted to $268,000 US dollars. The net loss for 2010 was $5 million or $0.08 per share, calculated on 61,489,162 weighted average number of sales basic and diluted. Excluding non-cash items, net income for 2010 amounted to a gain of $37 million or $0.60 per share calculated on 61,489,162 weighted average number of sales basic and diluted.

Turning to slide 13 for Q4 2010, total revenue amounted to $72 million; our operating income amounted to $22 million. Non-cash items (inaudible) amounted to $3.1 million as depicted in the middle column, and the adjusted figures exclude these non-cash items. The net income for Q4 2010 was $20.7 million representing a gain of $0.33 per share, calculated on 62,167,272; and 62,682,939 weighted number average of sales basic and diluted, respectively. Excluding non-cash items, net income for Q4 2010 amounts to a gain of $23.8 million or $0.38 per share, calculated on 62,167,272 and 62,682,939 weighted average number of sales basic and diluted, respectively.

I would like now to move to the last part of our presentation, as we go to the market commentary, please turn to slide 15 for a supply update. According to data provided by Clarkson’s, 30% of the originally scheduled deliveries for 2010 did not take place, with the capesize sector having the greatest percentage of such non deliveries. On to top right graph, you can see a breakdown of scheduled and actual deliveries for the quarter, by vessel segments, this is why along with other leading brokers and industry insiders, estimate a similar or in some cases even greater percentage of non-deliveries for 2011. As you can see on the bottom right graph, looking beyond the year of 2011, scheduled deliveries for all vessel categories come down to much lower levels.

Congestion in Australia has been on the rise recently due to extreme weather conditions, however, the resulting cargo shortage has been dramatically more of a defining factor than the (inaudible) that’s been building up in Australian ports. Also during the last few months, there has been a slight pickup in scrapping of older vessels. The pickup in scrapping will slow down the fleet’s growth rate, while providing some relief to rate pressures. Please turn to slide 16 for an update on the global economy.

You can see on the top right graph world industrial investments have recovered and is continuing in a significant upward trend in the coming years. Looking at the bottom right graph, you can see that PMI for the developed economies project to continue the recovery in industrial production during the months ahead. This is not only an indicator of additional raw material demand and possible shipping demand, but also indicative that the world is going back to a more balanced load pattern, something essential for the stability and the sustainability of this growth demand. The bottom right graph brings some of the most important future of the global economy. According to the IMF, global security is expected to grow by another 4.5% in the next five years.

This is significantly higher from the last 10, 20, or 30 year averages. Taking into account the increased sale the global GDP contributed by global economies, combined with the intensity of raw material demand in these countries, we cannot help but feel some positivity about the prospects of future demand growth for the materials. Please turn to next slide 17 on the view of Iron Ore trade which is expected for our shipping activities. As you can see the top right graph, after the end of 2010 all iron ore prices and global seaborne item exports have been rising to record high levels. However, what is not depicted in the graph is that the non final official (inaudible) is the fact that Brazilian Iron ore exports dropped to 32.7 million last month, from 72.2 million tons in the prior month, mainly due to weather conditions and the Chinese yearend slowdown.

This is expected to be reversed in the short term in front of us, and the other transport iron ore prices are updated daily and currently stand at around $190 per ton, which is below the recent record high. There can be mention of record high prices and record high volumes in (inaudible) demand for this commodity. On the bottom left graph you can see that while China’s imports have been rising to record highs, its global market share has come down to more balanced growth share to pre-crisis levels. This makes us feel more confident on the sustainability of iron ore demand both in the future, since part of their weight and activity is taken over by some other countries except China.

Indian exports have been showing a declining trend, as you can see on the bottom right graph; it’s expected to continue in the future, as India retains iron ore for its domestic consumption. This will significantly increase iron ore demand since India is China’s closest iron ore source and this difference in (inaudible) taken to China from places further away, increasing the miles. Please turn to slide 18 for a look at the Chinese iron ore imports. This slide is framed upon the (inaudible). It is well known that China (inaudible) bidding efficient, and at the end of the day, expensive to use.

The bottom left graph shows that domestic iron ore production going up, depending on the total amount produced, and how this is implemented in the next five years. As (inaudible) of the low cost mines, inflation, and other factors, the production cost is expected to move upwards. So far China’s reaction has been to import as much iron ore as possible, and due to the nature of this need depends on the actual infrastructure of the country, we feel this will not change in the future. To put it in a few words, we believe that the fundamentals behind the recent building structural elements and that will be supporting dry bulk shipping demand for a long time ahead of us. This has actually been mirrored in the top right graph, where you can see not only the expected growth of China’s iron ore demand, but also the gradual decline of the domestically mined component of such demand provides.

What is also worth noting is that China (inaudible) for growth in the non big four countries; i.e. the countries as comprised of Brazil, Australia, South Africa and India. As we see inputs from these countries it’s doubled in only the last three years. This seems more like a long term strategic certification by them, by the Chinese, but on the short term, (inaudible). Please turn to the last slide, number 19 of this presentation, where there is an update on the recent weather related matters. I’m sure everyone has seen on the news or they read the papers about the severe floods that have devastated Australia. It is true that in many cases shipments have (inaudible) and many cargos have been delayed or canceled. What many people do not realize is that similar order related disruptions have occurred in practically all coal exporting regions.

As you can see on the graphs on the right side of this slide, disruptions during Q1 is something that is not unusual for Australia and Brazil. This graph can indicate that in Q1 of every year is the most challenging for both Australia and Indian exports. Stating that we expect the first quarter segments to be affected, however, there is some “coordinated weather destructions” which have put a tremendous impact on dry bulk rates; it is our belief that rates start rebounding, and return to their more normalized patterns. Now I will not take any more of your time, thank you; I would like to pass the call over to the operator. If you have any questions, please; Mr. Pappas, Mr., Capralos and myself will be happy to answer then.

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

Thank you very much indeed. We will now begin the question and answer session. (operator instructions). Your first question from Cantor Fitzgerald coming from Noah Parquette.

Noah Parquette - Cantor Fitzgerald:

Thank you. I was just when I, you talk about why the rates are where they are, are absolute values expected to come down, you seem interested in growing the fleet. Are you seeing this as an opportunity? And opportunistic guy to do that? How do you think about focusing growth over share this environment? I mean, will you focus on purchases shops, or would you consider (inaudible).

Spyros Caprolos:

Well, not modern, first of all, there are a lot of ways to do that. I’m sure as we get another dividend impression as we go along here, we will make it to say that we think that the dividends (inaudible) we always have thought that in that we have always thought that this company came to market…dividends and we are believers that we will share some of the benefit with shareholders. Of course raising it or doing whatever with dividends is a business of the board of directors. I would not like to preclude that the Board of Directors decision on what we do from now on, but certainly we feel that we have a healthy level of dividend for the circumstances and the environment as we are. Now the environment is suffering due to the fact that yes, we have a – there is a disconnect, always have lower asset prices always provides an opportunity but at the same when you have prevailing loss of prices, you also have low charter rates also. So I think it’s up to the creativity and the ability of the company and management teams to go out and assess the credit transactions at an early point in time that such opportunities arise. So we do feel there is room for expansion with creative and active assistance to the fleet and we judge the mood of the market to assess these opportunities.

Noah Parquette - Cantor Fitzgerald:

In terms of leverage, what metrics do you look at, what model of leverage will you be comfortable with if there is a good opportunity to expand?

Spyros Caprolos:

As you know we have been always conservative with levels that our assets are on. Even on the high rolling times of the past, as you know, we were a component of a more conservative plan. Levels of debt, even though banks were openly offering us more, and that was before we were looking at the very challenging Q4 for both the years 2009 and 2010. We wanted to take a reasonable debt and pay up front on a front loaded basis while the rates were good. Having said that, we still maintain our belief that leverage has to be at a realistic and conservative levels and where we are currently we think around 55-60% of leverage overall is reasonable for where our values currently stand which is not at a historical height of the past, so they are more lower levels.

Noah Parquette - Cantor Fitzgerald:

Alright, and shifting gears, you know with the Korea line situation, you know, you’ve had a history of counter party issues in the past. When you look at Fifteen Year Fleet… and the credit options, can you talk about the credit options you go through and how you weed out counter-parties now? How much more careful are you being?

Spyros Caprolos:

We are very careful. You remember, yes, we had some issues but we didn’t really proactively pursue those in those instances of trouble. The first issues were created at a time when it was very close to our company coming becoming operational, therefore several of those charters were attached to the vessels, prior to us receiving the vessels and becoming operational, so we really didn’t have any choose, or very limited choice on the type of charter we had at the time. Now, as you know following the path of the company very closely for the past few years, we have made the concise effort to really upgrade the level of quality of our charters, bringing in the major miners, etc.

Now, the Korean line always seemed, at least at the times when we fixed the vessel, we reviewed them for our credit risk and other risk for file activities and they checked out fine. Korea Line is a company that has 150-160 vessels chartered in and another 50-60 depending on how they’re using in the COA’s which are fleet operated. For a company that has about 80-100 to 200 at any given time, and a fleet of 8000 vessels, and is one of the major operators, I think any major dry bulk company is bound to have at least a vessel on Korea, at least some exposure with Korea.

So I think in the interest of our specific situation, it’s an unfortunate situation because it was viewed as a major player, and a very credible player, and it’s a pity that a lot of people have issues due to that in a challenging time, but we’ll deal with it, we’ll do our best to handle it, we’re keeping close to the situation and we will do our utmost to not lose any value at this juncture.

Noah Parquette - Cantor Fitzgerald:

Thank you very much.

Operator

Thank you sir. Now from FBR Capital Markets, there’s a question from Doug Garber.

Doug Garber - FBR Capital Markets

Good afternoon guys, my first question had to do with Bank covenants and your restrictive cash of $24 million or so. At this time, are you guys in compliance with your covenant, and do you expect any of that restrictive cash to be released? What’s the minimum going forward that you keep this restrictive?

Spyros Capralos

We’ve been compliant with governance for about four quarters now. The issue has been always that when we conducted this agreement with the banks for the waiver period and waivering of government thresholds, this agreement was made for some specific period of time that is ending on all of our waivers within the first quarter of the year.

So from this quarter onwards we formally do not have any government issues but in the reality there are government issues going through the threshold for about four quarters. Now that’s the reason why the banks have allowed us for the last four or five quarters to pay in dividends. So in reality, we were in compliance, informally we still in a waiver type of period. Does that answer the question?

Doug Garber - FBR Capital Markets

Yeah, it does. My question was more about the waiver period within the company; I hadn’t known you weren’t in compliance. Sure, sure. My second question was on Korea Line. I’m not sure how much information you guys can give out, but they have approached you for a new rate. Can you disclose how those negotiations are going and what that rate is that currently they’re asking for?

Spyros Capralos

You understand that this is a big market to everybody, and they’ve asked them to make some adjustments, however since we are at a period where this changes back and forth and it’s a confidential matter between every company and Korea Line, I think at this time I would like to stick to the information that was included in our press release yesterday and I would like us to leave it at that for now.

Maybe in a few days or so we will have more (inaudible) developments are, and as always, being very open with the market we will come back with an announcement and explain to everybody what’s going on. For now since we have nothing concrete, I would like us to stay with the contents of yesterday’s press release.

Doug Garber - FBR Capital Markets

Okay, great. I’ll wait for that press release. My next question is on the Star Epsilon, the cape side trestle that I think comes off in March, what are your plans for that? Have you guys looked at how much you could get, when’s its next dry dock, what tonnage, have you looked at the economics of scraping that vessel? What’s the future like for it?

Spyros Capralos

Scrapping, the vessel has a few years on it. It’s rated four high stars on the right ship evaluation. It’s operating very well. That’s one side of the question. Regarding rates, we are continuously looking what we can get for all of our vessels that are opening up, not just the Epsilon, and we will optimistically see what we’re going to do. For now, we’re just reviewing the market. Maybe Mr. Pappas will have an answer?

Petros Pappas

For that vessel, moving forward for the next nine months after she’s delivered because we have fixed COA for three cargos, so the vessel in reality through the COA through the end of the year.

Doug Garber - FBR Capital Markets

That’s very helpful, thank you, and just a final housekeeping question. You guys, for the two capeside rebuilds, how much of a (inaudible) remaining, and do you expect to finance with equity in it, how much would that be?

Spyros Capralos

We are finding out right now we have in the vicinity of about 65% of the value of the two vessels. The two vessels have been contracted for about $107 million dollars. In reality what has happened on a preliminary basis is that the vessel is contracted on five payments of 20% each. We have contributed last year two times 20% for 40% payments of the equity and the banking institution will contribute the remaining after delivery.

So the equity that is needed for the vessels, which is $43 million dollars, has already been put out and we have no further exposure from CapEx requirement from now on, either on the pre-delivery period or post-delivery period.

Doug Garber - FBR Capital Markets

Great, and my last question is on share repurchases versus dividends. I know you addressed this earlier. In healthy cash balance have you guys considered share repurchases or are things on hold until you get more contract coverage?

Spyros Capralos

We have considered on the board level share repurchases in the past. We’ve had some levels of repurchases that we would be willing to do overall until the end of this year. As you know, the waiver period and bank compliance provided us some kind of luggage, let’s call it, from even thinking these things because banks were not really willing to allow, as they were tight on dividend payments they are also tight on repurchases because they were not willing to allow such things included in the company in that fashion. With the governance period and the waiver period ending this quarter the board will discuss all of these issues and will decide accordingly.

Doug Garber - FBR Capital Markets

Great, thank you guys.

Operator

(Operator Instructions.) As there are no further questions, we now turn the call back to Mr. Spyros Capralos for closing remarks.

Spyros Capralos

Ladies and gentleman, I just want to thank you for participating on this call. We look forward to seeing you again during our next quarter financial results conference call. Again, thank you very much and have a good day.

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