Early last month, I drew Fools' attention to DryShips (Nasdaq: DRYS ) , a dry bulker/offshore drilling aspirant with a vexing valuation. Another quarter of sound earnings has arrived, and yet shares still sit around the same soggy level today.
Over the past year, DryShips began taking vessels off the spot market and placing them on long-term charter. While granting that it wasn't necessarily a bad move for DryShips -- not to mention Excel Maritime (NYSE: EXM ) -- to lock in some attractive long-term rates, I mistook the move for a simple accommodation of the financial risk of funding the new deepwater drilling fleet. But the savvy shipper was also calling a top in a frankly frothy market.
So how have earnings held up, now that more than a full quarter has passed since the peak in freight rates? Quite well, I must say. On the dry bulk side, utilization remained near 100%, while time charter equivalent rates came in at nearly $64,000 per day, about 40% higher than the prior-year period. That average rate was even slightly better than the one reported in the first quarter of this year. The segment contributed roughly $4 to companywide per-share earnings of $4.21.
As for the deepwater segment, things continue to look bright. The company pointed to Transocean's (NYSE: RIG ) very recent five-year contract signing as a sign of ongoing strength in this segment. The dayrate on that deal roughly matches the record rate that Eni (NYSE: E ) agreed to over the summer.
Once the Leiv Eriksson comes off contract with Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE: RDS-A ) (NYSE: RDS-B ) in 2009, the rig will be the first available out of the global deepwater fleet. There's a lot of interest in using it after that, and the company expects to sign something by year's end.
While it's possible to find a cleaner balance sheet in the transport sector -- similarly sized Nordic American Tanker Shipping (NYSE: NAT ) , for instance -- DryShips does appear to be on decent financial footing. If you're optimistic about global commerce perking up again in the relatively near term, then the dry bulk space is a natural place to look for a major lift. DryShips just so happens to offer a captivating offshore drilling kicker.