When Nordic American Tankers Ltd. (NYSE: NAT) reported results this morning, the company started out by saying that it had “improved its relative position within the industry despite a weak market.” The company’s quarterly net loss came in at $0.39 per share against a consensus estimate for a net loss of $0.36 per share. The loss does not include a $0.22 per share impairment charge.
This is not just a problem for Nordic. Other tanker operators, including Frontline Ltd. (NYSE: FRO), TeeKay Corp. (NYSE: TK), Teekay Tankers Ltd. (NYSE: TNK) and Tsakos Energy Navigation Ltd. (NYSE: TNP), have suffered as well. Overseas Shipholding Group, the largest U.S. tanker operator, filed for bankruptcy protection in November.
These crude oil shippers have been hit with declining demand for crude and an oversupply of vessels. The combined impact has produced an average daily rate for Nordic of just $10,700 during the fourth quarter, compared with a break-even average of around $12,000. Nordic, which operates a fleet of Suezmax vessels capable of carrying 1 million barrels each, is probably a little better off than companies sailing the largest tankers — VLCCs that carry about twice the oil of the Suezmaxes — and that last week were seeing rates below $10,000 a day. The VLCC fleet is expected to grow by more than 5% in 2013, probably the last thing the industry needs.
Nordic expects the global Suezmax fleet to grow by 54 vessels in 2013, but only five are currently scheduled for delivery in 2014. The company also noted that scrapping increased in 2012 and it expects another increase in 2013.
Investors have not deserted the shippers though, primarily because most pay significant dividends. Nordic’s dividend yield is 7.3%, Tsakos pays 5%, TeeKay pays 3.5% and TeeKay Tankers pays 2.9%. Only Frontline currently pays no dividend. TeeKay is the only one of these companies that has posted share price growth in the past 12 months, with shares up nearly 35%. The rest are down between 30% and 40% from their year-ago prices.
Are decent dividends enough to keep investors interested? Nordic’s shares are down only about 1% today, at $8.75 in a 52-week range of $8.15 to $16.04. The consensus price target on Nordic’s shares is around $9.10, which leaves an upside potential of just 4%.