Shipping Faces Oversupply, Rising Fuel Costs (AMKBF, DRYS, GNK, DSX, EGLE, EXM)

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Danish shipping giant A.P. Moeller-Maersk A/S (OTC: AMKBF) posted profit of $1.22 billion for the first quarter on revenue of about $15.2 billion, both significantly better than the same period a year ago. But the company’s outlook for the rest of the year is not so bright, and neither is the outlook for other shippers.

DryShips Inc. (NASDAQ: DRYS) is scheduled to report results tomorrow, and analysts are expecting EPS of $0.16 on revenue of $234 million. For the June quarter, expectations rise to EPS of $0.22 on revenue of nearly $279 million. Many other shippers have already reported quarterly results, including Genco Shipping & Trading Ltd. (NYSE: GNK), Diana Shipping Inc. (NYSE: DSX), Eagle Bulk Shipping, Inc. (NASDAQ: EGLE), and Excel Maritime Carriers, Ltd. (NYSE: EXM).

Charter rates remain low for both dry bulk and container shippers. The Baltic Dry Index, a measure of dry bulk shipping rates, currently sits at $1,344, about double its low of around $663, but still well below year-ago rates of nearly $4,000. Container shipping rates are rising somewhat, but by less than the industry would hope. From Shanghai to the Europe, the cost of shipping a twenty-foot container (teu) fell from $925 to $919. Rates had been as high as $1,300/teu earlier this year. Meanwhile, the cost of bunker fuel from Asia to Europe have risen to a record high of $776/teu.

Ironically, Diana Shipping was able to beat expectations for its first quarter by expanding the size of its fleet. The company’s average charter rate for the quarter was $31,592, compared with $31,982 in the same period a year ago. But the company averaged more than 2 more vessels in operation this year, making up for the lower rates and higher fuel costs. Genco, like Diana, also added new vessels in the first quarter, which helped the company overcome a 37% decline in shipping rates.

Eagle posted an EPS loss of -$0.09 for the first quarter, including a $6.6 million one-time loss. Excluding the item, the company posted EPS of $0.01 on revenue of about $87 million, which was up 60% compared with the same period a year ago. The company is expected to post an EPS loss of -$0.01 next quarter on revenue of $65.5 million, a sharp sequential decline from first quarter revenue of $86.7 million.

Excel posted an EPS loss of -$0.01 on a doubling of expenses. The company’s blended charter day rate was down by -20% year-over-year.

The number of dry bulk ships is expected to increase by at least 10% this year, while cargoes are expected to rise by only 5%. Add in higher fuel costs, and the outlook for shippers in 2011 is decidedly downbeat.

Paul Ausick