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Seaspan Corporation (NYSE:SSW)

Q1 2011 Earnings Call

May 5, 2011 10:00 a.m. ET

Executives

Gerry Wang – CEO

Sai Chu - CFO

Analysts

Ken Hoexter – Bank of America/Merrill Lynch

Gregory Lewis - Credit Suisse

Justin Yagerman [Josh], with Deutsche Bank

Noah Parket – Cantor Fitzgerald

Ir Stir [ph] – Lazard Capital Markets

Operator

Welcome to the Seaspan Corporation conference call to discuss the financial results for quarter and year-ended March 31, 2011. Hosting the call today is Gerry Wang, Chief Executive Officer, Co-Chairman and Co-founder of Seaspan Corporation, and Sai Chu, Chief Financial Officer of Seaspan Corporation. Mr. Wang and Mr. Chu will be making some introductory comments, and then we will open the call up to Q&A. I will now turn the call over to Sai Chu.

Sai Chu

Thank you operator, and good morning everyone, and thank you for joining us today. Before we begin, please allow me to remind you that this presentation contains certain forward-looking statements as such term is defined in Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. Concerning future events in our operations, performance and financial condition, including in particular, the likelihood of our success in developing and expanding our business, expected company performance during 2011, 2012, and 2013, our ability to increase our dividends and our ongoing negotiations with shipyards for the purchase of new building vessels.

These forward-looking statements reflect management's current views only as of the date of this presentation and are not intended to give any assurance as to future results. As a result, you are cautioned not to rely on any forward-looking statements. Although these statements are based upon assumptions we believe to be reasonable based upon available information, they are subject to risks and uncertainties detailed from time to time in our periodic reports.

We expressly disclaim any obligations to update or revise any of these forward-looking statements, whether because of future events, new information, a change in our views or expectations, or otherwise. We make no prediction or statement about the performance of our common shares.

I would also like to remind you that during this call, we may discuss certain non-GAAP financial measures, including adjusted EBITDA, cash available for distribution to common shareholders, normalized net earnings, normalized earnings per share, and normalized converted earnings per share. In regards to such financial measures and for reconciliation of such measures to the most closely comparable U.S. GAAP measures, please refer to our earnings release, which is available on our website.

We will now begin our presentation. Please refer to our webcast presentation slides as provided on our website. In addition, you will find further details regarding our Q1 and the transactions discussed in this presentation in our earnings release issued this morning.

I will now pass the call over to Gerry, who will provide details on our highlights for the quarter.

Gerry Wang

Thank you very much, Sai. Good morning to everybody. This call will include a discussion of our financial and our operational results, and a progressive dividend policy. Please turn to your Slide 4.

I’ll begin by discussing the progress that Seaspan has made in 2011, which we believe has strengthened the company’s position as a leading independent containership charter owner, and have created long-term value for our shareholders.

During the first quarter of 2011, Seaspan business continued to operate as expected, and the company posted a strong operational and a financial results.

First, our fleet remains fully secured primarily on long-term fixed rate time charters, and we continue to achieve strong utilization.

Second, all of our customers continue to perform in accordance with our charter agreement.

Third, we continue to expand our fully time charter fleet, enabling the company to grow revenue, net earnings, and cash flow available for distribution to common shareholders on a long-term basis.

Fourth, we took additional decisive steps to enhance our capital structure and a financial flexibility.

And finally, we acted proactively grow the company beyond its contracted fleet and capitalized on the most attractive new building acquisition involvement in our decade.

Deliveries, we took delivery of three vessels in the first quarter of 2011 including two 4500 TEU vessels from some Hyundai Heavy Industries named the Bilbao Bridge, the Brevik Bridge, and the one 8500 TEU vessel from Hyundai Heavy Industries named the COSCO Prince Rupert. The Bilbao Bridge and the Brevik Bridge are on charter K-line for 12 years with options to expand up to an additional 6 years, while the COSCO Prince Rupert is on a 12 year charter to COSCON.

Subsequent to the end of the first quarter, we took delivery of one more vessel, the COSCO Vietnam which is an 8500 TEU vessel. The COSCO Vietnam, which is also a charter to COSCO, on the 12-year term, is the last of the 8500 TEU sister vessels built at Hyundai Heavy Industries.

Our charter at COSCO and Seaspan are very pleased with the performance of this 8 sister vessels. We now have 59 vessels in operation, and 10 scheduled to be delivered through April 2012. The ten vessels to be delivered will be two 4500 TEU vessels to K-line and eight 13 [inaudible] TEU vessels to COSCON.

Four of the 13 [inaudible] TEU vessels are expected to be delivered from Hyundai Heavy Industries beginning in early June, this year. The vessels will be the largest in our fleet, and they will also present COSCONs flagship operating vessels. Three charters, as previously announced, charter shipping had exercised its option to expand the charters of the CSCL Hamburg and CSCL Chiwan for two years.

Utilization, our operating fleet continues to perform well for the first quarter to achieve utilization rate of 98.9%. We continue to achieve strong utilization due to our fully time charter fleet. We worked very closely with our customers to schedule dry-dockings during off peak season which could result in a slightly lower utilization rates for certain time periods, including the first quarter of the year.

Since ITU in August 2005, our average utilization has been 99.1% including dry-dockings. While our first quarter utilization was strong, it was slightly lower than our five-year average due to 53 days of scheduled off-hire for the dry docking of four vessels, the CSCL Sao Paulo, Jakarta Express, Saigon Express, and the Rio Grande Express. In addition, we have two days of unscheduled off-hire for the quarter.

Dividends, as highlighted in our fourth quarter earnings release in February 2011, our Board adopted a progressive dividend policy with the goal of sustainable growing our dividend over time while preserving and financing our long-term financial strength, and ability to undertake additional fleet growth.

As expect for the first quarter of 2011, the board declared $0.18.75 per-share quarterly dividend representing 15% increase. This equates to $0.75 annualized dividends per-share for 2011. The board’s decision to increase dividends and our adoption of progressive dividend policy, reflects the growth in cash available for distribution to common shareholders, as we take delivery of our fully contracted newbuilding fleet.

In evaluating future dividend increases, the board will continue to take into account the company’s conservative business model, growth opportunities and the industries long-term fundamentals.

Financing, during the first quarter of 2011, we issued $250 million of Series C accumulative redeemable perpetual preferred shares. The noninvestment grade perpetual preferred market has been limited to a few issuance and this is the first issuance of this type of security by any shipping company. We are pleased with the reception from the market for this new security.

Importantly, this transaction presents a significant step in expanding our capital structural for future growth. As a result of the Series C preferred share offering, we improved our financial flexibility and obtained the capacity to fund our next phase of growth.

I would now like to turn the call over to Sai, to discuss our financial results. Sai please.

Sai Chu

Thanks, Gerry. Please turn to Slide 5 for a Q1 2011 results compared to Q1 2010. Revenues increased substantially due to the increases in offering days and higher time charter rates on the newly delivered vessels.

Ship operating expenses also increase – increased lower relative to the revenue increases consistent with the growth of our fleet and the operating efficiencies from the larger ships, which have lower operating cost for TEU.

Adjusted EBITDA increases outpaced revenue due to efficiencies from the lower OpEx for TEU from the larger ships, and lower relative G&A increases. Cash available for distribution to common shareholders increased at a lower percentage than adjusted EBITDA due to the dividends related to the Series B and Series C preferred shares and increased interest expense resulting from the use of more debt to fund the acquisition of our new vessels.

Normalized net earnings increased at a lower percentage relative to our previously mentioned metrics due to higher interest expense resulting from the use of more debt drawn on larger vessels.

Please turn to Slide 6 for our normalized per-share metric. Our normalized converted EPS for Q1 was $0.24 per share compared to analyst consensus of $0.29. The $0.05 difference is primarily due to the Series C preferred share dividend we issued earlier this quarter and paid just recently.

It appears that some analyst did not adjust their estimates of our Q1 EPS and the preferred C dividend. In other cases, there were some difference from OpEx, interest expense and deferred charges.

We would like to refer to analyst; Page 18 of our earnings release for the correct treatment of our Series C preferred dividend and the impact on EPS. Our Series C preferred share, our growth capital and accordingly the dividend will have a temporary diluted impact on our earnings until we deploy that capital to the two new ships that generate cash flow upon delivery.

As Gerry mentioned, our Board has now declared an 18.75 per-share quarterly dividend for Q1 in line with previously announced guidance. The board has increase the dividend twice in less than a year with a goal of providing value to our shareholders for this sustainably growing dividend over time while preserving and balancing our financial strength, and our ability to take advantage of compelling growth opportunities.

Including the first quarter dividend Seaspan has distributed $7.15 per share in cumulative dividends since going public in August 2005.

If you turn to Slide 7 for a balance sheet information as of March 31, 2011, and December 31, 2010. The increase in total assets on our balance sheet from year-end is reflective of the growth in our fleet, and cash proceeds from our Series B preferred share issuance.

Please refer to Slide 8 for quarterly details of our vessel deliveries, drydocking CapEx and converted share count guidance for 2011 and 2012. Also, please refer to our website under tab Seaspan fleet, the details on our upcoming delivery dates, charter rates and OpEx rates as disclosed in our 20F.

In terms of deliveries, we have taken delivery of four vessels thus far in 2011 including in recent delivery of the COSCO Vietnam, and expect six more vessels to be delivered this year. The final four vessels in our current newbuild fleet are expected to be delivered by March 2012. All deliveries are subject to further changes based on customer scheduling requirements.

In terms of dry dockings, we expect approximately 4 days in Q2 to complete the dry docking of the Saigon Express which we got in Q1. We expect 32 days of dry docking in Q2 – 10 in Q3, none in Q4, and 120 days in 2012. These subjects are also subject to change – or these estimates are also subject to change.

In terms of CapEx, we expect approximately 290 million in Q2, 236 million in Q3, and 36 million in Q4. We expect about 347 million in CapEx for 2012 representing total capital expanding standing of 909 million.

We expect our [inaudible] cash flows to grow as we continue to take delivery of our large 13,100 TEU ships on charter to COSCO. In particular, our cash flows were 190 million in 2010, and we expect our cash flows to grow over 30% to 250 million in 2011 and another 15% to approximately 300 million in 2012.

I would now like to review our expected converted share count for 2011, this is relevant for the accurate calculation of our normalized converted diluted EPS as discussed earlier. Based on no common equity raises and a conversion price of $15 for our Series A preferred shares, we expect for 2011 85.7 million, 86.3, and 86.8 million shares for each quarter remaining sequentially. For 2012, 87.9, 88.6, 89.2, and 89.8 million for each quarter sequentially. Please note these projections are subject to change.

On the capital structure side, Seaspan has demonstrated its ability to preserve and enhance a strong and flexible capital structure. And now, as a result of increasing cash flows, has the ability to decide to increase common share dividends, pay down debt, pay preferred dividends, and pursue growth in a balanced and controlled manner.

We continue to work on many financing transactions to create additional capacity for growth. I would now like to turn the call back over to Gerry, to discuss recent developments, our business model, general industry fundamentals.

Gerry Wang

Thanks, Sai. Please turn to Slide 9 on the webcast where I will briefly outline Seaspan strong build-in growth. The company has more than tripled as contracted fleet capacity since its IPO in 2005, representing a confounded annual growth rate of approximately 30%. All of our ten remaining vessels are to be delivered by approximately April 2012 and we believe we have fully secured financing for all of these vessels. In total, we have approximately $6.5 billion in contracted revenues.

Please turn to Slide 10. We will outline what this growth will mean to our cash flows. Based on our projections we estimate that we will exceed approximately $700 million per year of contracted revenues. $500 million of adjusted EBITDA and $300 million of cash available for distribution to common shareholders beginning annually in 2013 at which point our current [inaudible] program will be complete.

In addition, it is worth noting that we have no contractual debt maturities until 2015. The figures on the chart exclude any further incremental growth.

Please turn Slide 11. I would like to briefly provide an overview of the industry’s fundamentals.

As anticipated, supply has increased due to newbuild and delivering in 2010, however the order book remains moderate in the long term. Demand has been stable and we expect that to continue for 2011 and 2012.

Though freight rates have moderated and fluctuated for certain ship range, charter rates are generally favorable, particularly for larger moderate vessels. Overall, we believe the containment market is relatively favorable for containership owners.

As for fleet rates, given that we have seen normal [inaudible] adjustments for Q1, we expect improvements in Q2 and Q3 as we head into peak season. Our expectations for 2011 and 2020 remain unchanged. We expect the industry will moderate in those years compared with record 2010.

However, we believe 2013 and ‘14 will be a good period as demand is expected to match or outpace the supply. The order book at the shipyard is currently reasonably low for 2013 and 2014 deliveries. We’re optimistic about the long-term prospect of the containment industry and believe we’re well positioned to grow.

Please now turn Slide 12. I will briefly reiterate our vision for the future. We have entered into our third five-year plan. Our first five years were as a new and growing private company and our second five years were as a newly public listed and growing company. For our first five year plan, Seaspan will continue to focus on growth, particularly in a controlled and balance fashion. We will continue to enhance our financial strength and the flexibility as demonstrated by our recent $250 million preferred share offering.

We will continue to focus on providing high-quality assets to customers with strong credits. Our customers are undergoing at [inaudible] shipped as they face high fuel prices, and aging fleet. We believe they will demand new and innovative ship designs to drive down that cost. And improved [inaudible] performance while looking to phase out their older vessels.

We believe this is an attractive time to invest in containerships. And that the recent financial crisis in this location created a compelling opportunity to acquire vessels at attractive prices and employ them in a manner that will generate attractive returns on capital on long-term basis.

Lastly, Seaspan is committed to following a progressive dividend policy and a sustainable growing our dividends over time. And our focus will remain on creating long-term shareholder value.

Please turn to Slide 13, before we begin the Q&A session. We’re pleased to announce that we will be hosting an investor and analyst day in New York City, on Tuesday, May 17, Tuesday, May the 17. Operator, please begin the Q&A session.

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

(Operator Instructions). Our first question comes from Ken Hoexter with Bank of America/Merrill Lynch. You may begin.

Ken Hoexter – Bank of America/Merrill Lynch

Hey, I’m Gerri and Sai, good morning. Can you talk about the level of debt, or the total that will be drawn with the credit facilities and revolvers that fund the existing order. I just want to make sure I understand kind of where you stand with your liquidity and capacity is going to be at that point. Just based on the order book now, and you know, kind of including the sale leasebacks and past fleet transactions, everything that’s all on there. And then when do you begin to amortize that?

Sai Chu

Good morning, Ken, it’s Sai. The debt’s including all of our debt, we – it peaks out at about 3.5 billion in 2012, and then there is standard amortization in 2014 and 2015, and some at the tail end of 2013.

Ken Hoexter – Bank of America/Merrill Lynch

Then just on the – Gerry, you were talking about the – I guess there were those confirmed letter of intent but at 10,000 TEUs, is that – I just want to understand that order. Is that the 14 vessels and options for ten more? Can you comment on those?

Gerry Wang

Ken, the letter of intent we disclosed for a total of [inaudible] year four vessels with multiple options and we’re in the process of finagling the discussions with our charters, and ship [inaudible] for the business. And one thing I want to reconfirm, that Seaspan will only order vessels with time charters to be assigned simultaneously. Seaspan will not pursue any speculative order.

Ken Hoexter – Bank of America/Merrill Lynch

Okay, so the orders being made, now, just going back to the whole – the joint venture, now it’s up to you to figure what you want to choose? Is that right?

Sai Chu

Correct.

Ken Hoexter – Bank of America/Merrill Lynch

Okay, and so is there a time table on that that we have to hear back on the expansion and growth potential from that acquisition?

Gerry Wang

We don’t have a [inaudible].

Sai Chu

Ken, let me speak. This is Sai. We do not – we have not placed a firm order, we’re in discussions.

Ken Hoexter – Bank of America/Merrill Lynch

Oh, it’s not a – it’s still at the letter of intent stage?

Sai Chu

If we had a transaction to announce, we would announce it. We are in discussions today. And I think that’s important that obviously these would be material items that we would disclose if it has been completed. But as Gerry said, we are continuing in negotiations. As noted in our disclosures, it’s not just that yard that’s been named. There are several yards in China and Korea that we continue to have discussions.

Ken Hoexter – Bank of America/Merrill Lynch

Wonderful. All right, let me just wrap up. I’m over here in China now, and Hong Kong, and we’ve met with a bunch of the liners and ports, and I guess we’re – you know, some were mentioning that they’re trying to install a surcharge starting in May. Others have mentioned that it’s going to be very hard for that to stick. Just – you know, it looked like there was I guess about a net 20% growth in the fleet, when you think about what came off of the side binds over the past year. The market kind of absorbed it all. What’s your thoughts on where we’re headed now? It seems like we’re seeing rates stay at these low levels. Are you anticipating we see those rates rebound a bit going forward into peak season? How are you looking at the market now, Gerry?

Gerry Wang

I can – I think, typical Q1 optic season rates were under pressure. It’s always been like that for all those years. Heading to Q2 and Q3, we expect the rates to move up. The surcharges will be applicable, the volume will move up, and the line of measure – we’ll figure out ways to make sure they keep compensation for the rising fuel cost. And we’re optimistic about the ability to make the surcharges a factor.

Ken Hoexter – Bank of America/Merrill Lynch

Okay, thank you for the time.

Sia Chun

Thanks.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Gregory Lewis, with Credit Suisse. You may begin.

Gregory Lewis – Credit Suisse

Yes, thank you and good morning. Gerry, could you touch a little bit more on the LOI. I guess, I guess the way I would ask it is, is the delay in the LOI, is that more function of you sort of – you know, sending RFPs to shipyards for your – you know, for your potential order, or is it more along the lines of just trying to come to an agreement with your – with your charter party in terms of establishing what type of rate you’re thinking about?

Gerry Wang

Well basically, Greg, the LI gives you the starting point where the main terms would be agreed upon already on the price, and came in terms, and [inaudible] schedules. But you still need to finalize the new agreeing contract, and you still need to secure the time charter agreement, as I said. Seaspan would not make any orders on speculative basis. We would want and we would insist the new [inaudible] contracts and charter parties be signed simultaneously. And that’s been a part – if you look at our track record, we will gone over, you know, those years for the 69 vessels in our fleet. All of those newbuildings have been signed simultaneously with newbuilding charter parties at the same time. So, in all those newbuilding contracts and charter parties, will take time to finalize. And that’s where we are today, and before all those contracts, charter parties finalize, all the [inaudible] were lifted. We’re not in position to report.

Gregory Lewis – Credit Suisse

But it sounds like, just given how Seaspan has approached things in the past, you know, you probably wouldn’t be looking for LOIs with shipyards if you didn’t have some pretty solid demand from your counter party.

Gerry Wang

Sure, sure, sure. But it takes time to finalize. The business has been quite a normal to take a you know, two to three months, or even longer, up to six months to finalize the relevant in the contracts. As a matter of fact, we want to be very patient given what is happening in the market right now. And – so we don’t want to rush into anything before we feel absolutely comfortable. And we believe the market will continue to be in our favor. So question becomes why are you in a hurry.

Gregory Lewis – Credit Suisse

Okay, sure. And then just one last follow-up question. You know, I realize Seaspan’s revenue’s are fixed and the charter contracts are fixed, but, but putting that aside, have you seen any delays or are you hearing anything regarding the trucker strike in Shanghai? Is that impacting volumes in and out of that port at all? Or is that something that’s not really been impactful at that port to this point?

Gerry Wang

Yeah, we have heard about the same – you know, situation on the trucking in and out of Shanghai, but we believe that’s short-term, the issue has been resolved. And there’s no impact on the volume at all. And certainly [inaudible] there impact on Seaspan for sure.

Gregory Lewis – Credit Suisse

Okay, great. Thank you very much for the time.

Sai Chu

Thank you, Greg.

Operator

Thank you, our next question comes from Justin Yagerman, with Deutsche Bank, you may begin.

Justin Yagerman [Josh], with Deutsche Bank

Good morning, this is Josh [inaudible] for Justin.

Sai Chu

Hi, Josh.

Justin Yagerman [Josh], with Deutsche Bank

I’m just following up contracts, I guess. You’ve spoken a bit about a LOI with the Chinese yard, can you guys comment about maybe some larger ships at a Korea yard?

Gerry Wang

Well we, as I said many times, we are always speaking to varies builders for our potential requirements. Yes, we have opened up discussions with some Korean shipyards for the requirements of larger vessels. At this point of time, discussions that still continue on. And we don’t have anything firm to report. Once we [inaudible] contracts and charter parties execute it clean, then we’ll disclose them as we have done so in the past.

Justin Yagerman [Josh], with Deutsche Bank

I appreciate the extra color. I guess when you think about acquisitions is there any demand to the markets maybe go to – I guess purchase existing about those [inaudible] orders from some of these liners, rather than going out and placing new orders? Or are you guys adamant on new vessels with new designs under your own control versus maybe, existing orders from your customers?

Gerry Wang

The answer to the question is two part. Firstly we would [inaudible] to all the vessels reflecting our design features, which include lighter ships, fuel efficiency, and better load ability. However, if there are existing vessels which are priced very reasonably, then we would be prepared to take a look at them. And we are always looking at – in those options from time to time.

Justin Yagerman [Josh], with Deutsche Bank

Got it. And I guess, is there any update on maybe on the acquisition of Seaspan management? Is that still on the table?

Gerry Wang

That, that discussion is still on-going and at this point in time, we’re not in a position to report any progress.

Justin Yagerman [Josh], with Deutsche Bank

And one last question before I turn it over. I guess I – you mentioned earlier on the call, trying to find new attractive ways of financing, can you give us an idea of maybe what your considering or what’s on the table?

Sai Chu

Yeah, Josh. We certainly have a lot of different financing transactions we’re working on. I think that you know, all of the investment bankers and commercial bankers from the world are very excited about the things that we’re working on, in addition to our service provider. So I think that we’ve demonstrated our ability to expand the capital structure and find a lot of different capital. We are working on new markets and new investors. There’s capacity on our preferred Seaspan to open that to open that up, if that makes sense, and the common shares, and any number of equity linked instruments in addition to debt available to us in different forms whether it’s a traditional ship finance market or nontraditional markets which we’re looking at. So, what’s most important for us is that we continue to drive down our cost of capital for the benefit of our shareholders, and find assess of capital that is there in the quantities’ that are necessary to fund our growth. And we’re quite comfortable in being able to fund the next phase of growth. We are one of the strongest credits in shipping, and you know, we’re quite confident that a lot of different markets are available to us that are simply not available to the vast majority of our competitors. So, you know, you’ll see some other transactions as we continue to execute and it’ll be beneficial to our shareholders.

Justin Yagerman [Josh], with Deutsche Bank

Thanks for your time.

Sai Chu

Okay, thank you.

Operator

Thank you, our next question comes from Noah Parket with Cantor Fitzgerald. You may begin.

Noah Parket – Cantor Fitzgerald

Thanks, all my questions have been answered.

Operator

(Operator Instructions) Our next question comes from Ir Stir [ph] with Lazard Capital Markets. You may begin.

Ir Stir [ph] – Lazard Capital Markets

Good morning, you really covered everything for me, too. Thank you very much guys.

Sai Chu

Thanks.

Operator

Thank you. I’m showing no further questions at this time. I would now like to turn the conference back over to Gerry Wang.

Gerry Wang

Again, thank you very much for participating in this telephone call. And I’m looking forward to speaking to you over the next earnings call. And as I said very clearly, Seaspan is commitment to growing our business in a controlled and [inaudible] fashion. And we’ll continue to execute our business very conservable, very carefully. And making sure that our long-term shareholder value is protected and that’s the mission we have. The management team is fully committed to bringing the company to the next level. Thank you very much. Thank you, bye, bye.

Operator

Ladies and gentleman, this concludes today’s conference. Thank you for your participation. Have a wonderful day.

Gerry Wang

Thank you.

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