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Seaspan Corp  (NYSE:SSW)
Q1 2019 Earnings Call
May. 02, 2019, 8:30 a.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:

Operator

Welcome to the Seaspan Corporation Conference Call to discuss the Financial Results for the Quarter Ended March 31st, 2019. I would like to remind everyone that this conference call is being recorded today, May 2, 2019 at 8:30 AM Eastern Time and will be available for replay starting today at 11:30 Eastern Time.

Hosting the call today is Bing Chen, President and Chief Executive Officer; Peter Curtis, Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial and Technical Officer and Ryan Courson, Chief Financial Officer. We will open the call for questions after the presentation from the management, at which point David Sokol, Chairman of the Board and Torsten Petersen, Executive Vice President of Ship Management will also be available for questions.

I will now turn the call over to Ryan Courson, you may begin.

Ryan Courson -- Chief Financial Officer

Good morning, everyone and thank you for joining us to discuss Seaspan's first quarter earnings. Yesterday after the market close, we issued a press release announcing Seaspan's first quarter results for the period ended March 31st, 2019. The release, as well as the accompanying presentation for this conference call are available on the Investor Relation section of our website.

If we could all please turn to slide three, I would like to remind you that our discussion today contains forward-looking statements. Actual results may differ materially from those stated or implied by forward-looking statements due to risk and uncertainties associated with our business, which are discussed in the Risk Factor section of our Annual Report filed with the SEC on Form 20-F for the year ended December 31st, 2018. Our risk factors may be updated from time to time in our filings with the SEC. Please note that we assume no obligation to update any forward-looking statements.

And with that, I will now pass the call over to our CEO, Mr. Bing Chen to discuss Seaspan performance.

Bing Chen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you. Ryan. Please turn to slide four, operational and financial performance. I will first provide brief financial highlights for the quarter and Ryan will elaborate further. Our first quarter utilization of 98.1% was a strong improvement from last year's first quarter performance of 96.8%. Our revenue came in at approximately $285.3 million. This represents a 27% growth in revenue year-over-year. Operating income was $344.1 million. This represents a 315% increase from the same quarter of last year, driven by a one-time gain, that I will discuss in more detail later in the presentation.

Our cash flow from operations was $122.6 million for this quarter, which is a 76% increase from same quarter last year. EPS per diluted share was $1.26, compared to $0.37 2018. Other corporate developments, as previously mentioned in our Q4 2018 earnings, our January 15, 2019, we closed the second tranche of Fairfax's $1 billion vessels, which provided gross proceeds of $500 million. Also in the first quarter, we took over the management of 2, 2500 TEU vessels, the Seaspan Loga and Seaspan Hannover, which we acquired in Feburary 2018.

Please turn to slide five, while we continue to deliver on our five priorities, I would like to provide an update each quarter on key priorities for each of these focuses. We have made significant progresses on these priorities this quarter and throughout the presentation we will discuss some of our recent major accomplishment, as they relate to these key priorities. As you can see, our record operating earnings, we had a significant one-time gain, that was the result of modifying series of charters quested by one of our customers.

Now please note that each of these vessels are now on new charter arrangement, majority of the vessels will be multi-year charter as they (technical difficulty) charters. As highlighted in our strategic priorities, a customer-centric focus is a core value at Seaspan at times. It is in the normal course of our business that (technical difficulty) our customers on how to invest (technical difficulty). With our integrated part, we are well positioned to provide solutions for our customers operation, commercial, technical, regulatory and financial requirement.

Our ability to always deliver a mutually beneficial solutions for our customers is a demonstration of our full lifecycle vessel management expertise. Both Seaspan and our customers are satisfied with the solution, which allowed us to enhance charter value as we optimize the redeployment. Our proven customer partnerships across lenders enabled us to recharter all relevant vessels net favorably (technical difficulty) strategic business transformation. In addition to the above, this transaction also enhances our credit profile, the price of the $700 of both from a liquidity. Ryan will discuss this more during the financial section of the call.

Please turn to slide six. We continue to strengthen partnerships as they (technical difficulty) in operational excellence, as they trusted and (technical difficulty) our customers have been coming to us for technical advice relating to IMO 2020 for example, these improved changeover procedures among other IMO related matters. This highlights when the benefits of our integrated platform, having in-house expertise both regularly side by side thorough customers differentiate service quality, efficiency and create added value for our customers. Since the beginning of the year, we have did 11 fixtures with one of our largest customers COSCO SHIPPING, including several new 40 year time charters and extensions with CMA for these vessels. Expanding on our partnership with COSCO SHIPPING, we have also entered into a framework agreement, COSCO SHIPPING Energy Transportation collaborate on potential opportunities relating to LNG, other related mutually beneficial projects.

This quarter also marks several significant operational achievements, our Lost-Time Injury Frequency continue to improve upon our numbers from 2018, which was our fifth year of record. We also took over management of two vessels of February 2018, the Seaspan Loga and Seaspan Hannover, leveraging on our scale and top, I'm proud to see that well 107 time charter vessels are now managed by Seaspan. We continue to invest in and strive toward operational excellence. This is the foundation for our business and one of the main drivers for our customers as they continue broaden and deepen their partnerships with Seaspan.

I will now pass the call over to Peter Curtis, who will discuss current industry outlook.

Peter Curtis -- Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial and Technical Officer

Thank you, Bing and good morning all. Please turn to slide seven. In Q1, we saw stabilizing rates in smaller segments and increasing rates in the post-Panamax size classes. In particular, activity increased and the market tightened in early March in the 8000 to 9500 TEU segments. In these segments, liners have been fixing vessels for longer vessels -- for longer periods at increasing rates and segment capacity is almost fully occupied.

In the 4250 to 5500 TEU Panamax segments, there have been a number of idle vessels in the market during Q1, but we have seen encouraging support for rates indicating an underlying need for capacity from liners, with idle capacity reduced significantly. In addition to this, container volume growth at more or less 4% is still forecasted to exceed capacity growth at more or less 3%. Across all tonnage segments, sale and purchase activity remained modest through the quarter does not (technical difficulty) specific values.

Deliveries of new buildings remain polarized with no order book in the 4000 to 10000 TEU range. We expect limited deliveries to continue to provide support for asset values, while order book continue to favor larger vessel over 18000 TEU. We remain optimistic about rates and asset values for the remainder of the year, as we continue to see improved supply and demand characteristics. There are several other factors in play that will provide support going forward, including demand increases as vessels are taken out of service for scrubbers, seasonality and continued slow steaming.

Please turn to slide eight. In terms of supply and demand, the rate of global trade growth slowed marginally as indicated by the WTO softening their 2019 global trade growth outlook. However, as mentioned, we also see improvement in the balancing of supply and demand. In the leasing space, liners with very large scrubber programs have been active at securing larger tonnage for longer periods to secure coverage for a year or two. As large vessels are taken out of service for scrubber installation, this is proven to be a positive effect of charter rates with significant increases in charter rates for the 8500 to 10000 TEU segment, where idle capacity is almost nil at this time. Scrubber retrofitting is expected to artificially reduce fleet growth by around 1% of total TEU for the next one to two years.

The main trades have demonstrated a typical pattern in Q1, notably with this quarter being subsequent to the 2018 Q4 front running prior to the anticipated tariff increases on the transpacific cargoes. The network developments by the liner companies and the alliances with in which they operate have created a demand late in Q1, which has increased chartering activity in all sizes from Panamax and above.

As we outlined last quarter, several regions such as Africa, Southeast Asia, India and Oceania enjoy improving port infrastructure, opening them up to vessel segments larger than the traditional fleet size and allowing upsizing. Regions such as these have complemented the soft growth of Asia-Europe trade and the normalized transpacific trade. Our view is that with no new builds in the 4250 to 9000 TEU segment, the upsizing demand in these trades bode well for the segment.

Please turn to slide nine. Turning to the supply side, the idle fleet, order book and demolition volumes have shown strong fundamentals in the first quarter of 2019 and demonstrate that the industry is continuing to appropriately manage supply of vessels. The order book to existing fleet ratio remains at among all time lows at about 11.7%, having reduced year-on-year. Fleet capacity has increased just 0.5% since the beginning of the year. Given that the order book is backed in until late 2021, we anticipate a continued improvement in the balance between supply and demand, as global capacity growth remains below throughput growth and this continues to develop a more stable environment in the container industry.

Regarding idle vessels, approximately 2.1% of the fleet is idle, down from the 3.9% from our fourth quarter earnings call. There has been a steep decline in idle vessels from February to April, with much of the remaining idle capacity being below 3000 TEU in size. More specifically, the idle capacity declined approximately 50% from one month ago and we know it importantly that less than half of the idle tonnage is lesser owned, being the lowest level since 2012. In regard to recycling, we anticipate that with the requirements for ballast water treatment systems now being acute as vessels pass their deadlines and IMO 2020 compliant fuel requirements increasing the operating costs of this fuel-efficient vessel, there will likely be more positive impetus to recycle older tonnage.

I would now like to pass the call over to Ryan to discuss our financial results and forward-looking guidance.

Ryan Courson -- Chief Financial Officer

Thank you, Peter. If we could all please turn to slide 10, I'll provide a summary of our financial results for the first quarter. Our vessel utilization for the quarter was 98.1%, an increase from the 96.8% in the first quarter of 2018. Operating cost per ownership day was $5,993, a 3% decrease from the first quarter of 2018. Ownership and operating days increased 20% and 22% year-over-year. This increase was primarily driven by our acquisition of GCI and 2018 vessel deliveries. The GCI and 2018 vessel deliveries also were the primary drivers of both revenue and OpEx with revenue up 27% and OpEx up only 17%. We will have lapped both GCI and the 2018 vessel deliveries by the third quarter 2019.

General and administrative expenses were $8.8 million in the first quarter. The increase versus the prior year was primarily due to higher stock-based compensation and one-time items. We continue to expect to be within our guidance range for the full-year. Our operating earnings for the first quarter were $344.1 million, a 315% increase over the comparable quarter in 2018, primarily due to the $227 million one-time payment described earlier by Bing. GAAP diluted EPS for the quarter was $1.26 compared to $0.37 in the first quarter of 2018. The increase was also primarily driven by the same $227 million one-time payment. Cash flow from operations for the quarter was $122.6 million, compared to $69.6 million in the same quarter in the prior year, a 76% increase.

Please turn to slide 11, where we will discuss our capital structure developments. As we often discuss, we are focused on prudent, thoughtful capital allocation, with the strategy of improving our credit book profile as outlined at our 2018 Investor Day. Since the beginning of 2018, we have made significant improvements across our capital structure. This progress has continued into 2019.

Over the first quarter, we closed the second tranche of Fairfax's $500 million equity investment. Fairfax's $1 billion total investment has been instrumental in advancing our capital structure, increasing our capital stack, equity capital stack and balance sheet flexibility. With the second Fairfax tranche coming in, our deleveraging has accelerated. In the first quarter, we repaid total borrowings in the amount of $300 -- $300 million. And in addition subsequently in April 2019, we repaid our 2019 notes. We now stand at our lowest net debt-to-equity ratio since 2007. We have ample flexibility with 37 unencumbered assets and $700 million of pro forma liquidity. We will continue to augment our balance sheet strength in order to build sustainable, long-term franchise value.

Please turn to slide 12, please note that any forward-looking guidance is based on current information and all estimates are subject to change. Given the modification payment mentioned by Bing, we will be lowering our full-year revenue guidance to $1.1 billion to $1.12 billion, based on pulling forward these contracted cash flows. For the purposes of being clear, we are keeping our guidance for all other metrics the same.

That concludes my formal remarks. We thank you for your time today. And with that, I will pass the call back to the operator, who will open the call for questions. Operator?

Questions and Answers:

Operator

(Operator Instructions) Your first question comes from the line of Chris Wetherbee from Citigroup. Your line is open.

William -- Citigroup -- Analyst

Hi, this is William on for Chris. Thank you for taking my question. So I just want to follow-up on the time charter modifications that you guys discussed and just see if you can just provide a little more context around those if you could. I'm just wondering, what really motivate the decision to enter into the modifications and is there -- if it's likely that we'll see further modifications in the near future?

Bing Chen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, William. This is Bing. it is our normal course of business that we're working very closely with all our customers on a regular basis to address all their business need. This particular case where is our customers who have decided to focus their future business away from the existing container shipping activities. So what we have done is that leverage our existing full vessel lifecycle expertise, based on the existing time charter contractual obligations, working with our global customer network, with a focus on reducing the cost and the risk by developing a mutually beneficial solutions for all parties that involved. So the outcome of this now not only that we have one satisfied customer, we have three customers volume (inaudible) modification because each everyone gets they needed in their business. And also for the initiated customer, we actually strengthen our partnership simply because way that we reacted in terms of the time and was the solution that we provide.

And from the Seaspan's perspective not only we're able to place all the relevant vessels back in each market, most of them in a multi-year contract, but also we're able to achieve a net NPV positive outcome. So, the content is that, this is a great example how are we working with our customers through a trusted (technical difficulty) partnership by developing -- providing these machines that is mainly for the parties that involved.

So once again, this is course of our business and pride of our capabilities and continuing to working with our customers whatever their needs are and provide the type of growth in new solutions.

William -- Citigroup -- Analyst

Great, thank you for that context. And just following up on that, I mean what do you guys plan to do with the $227 million, I'm assuming it focuses primarily on de-leveraging, but I'm just wondering if it impacts your deleveraging timeline and any of your goals you have with that?

Ryan Courson -- Chief Financial Officer

Thanks for that, as we lay out on page 11, we have a pro forma liquidity right now of approximately $700 million. Our primary focus continues to be on improving our credit profile. We think that this has ample benefits not only across the debt capital side, but also from an equity standpoint. So we'll continue to focus on that. And the incremental liquidity will also drive the ability to engage in opportunities that are interesting to us.

William -- Citigroup -- Analyst

Great. And do you guys -- what are your thoughts on like interest expense in 2019 in light of your recent de-leveraging and including the repayment you guys had on April 1st?

Ryan Courson -- Chief Financial Officer

So, we provided guidance at the beginning of the year on a variety of operating metrics. Our de-leveraging will -- is from a capital allocation standpoint continues to be our primary strategy and primary focus and we evaluate all of the tools in our toolkit, as we think about moving that forward. So whether it's the charter modification or whether it's thinking through the individual bilateral facilities we have, we're constantly focused on making sure we're making the best decisions across our capital stack. And so you'll see us evaluate that from time-to-time and we provide significant disclosure as it relates to the individual facilities and the individual expenses related to that in our 6-K, which will be released in the next couple of days. And so you'll get a better sense of how that looks and how to model that out for the rest of 2019.

William -- Citigroup -- Analyst

Great, thank you very much for taking my questions.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Ben Nolan from Stifel. Your line is open.

Frank Galanti -- Stifel Nicolaus -- Analyst

Yeah, hi. This is Frank Galanti on for Ben. My question is related to the pace of development for investing in assets outside of the container shipping business, that's been about a year and a half since the company signaled the intention to invest incremental capital outside the business. And while there's been the investment in Swiber, there hasn't been a lot. And so my question is around the reason for that, has it been the function of waiting for the balance sheet or have you been having trouble finding projects that hit your return criteria?

Bing Chen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Frank. This is Bing. As we previously discussed that we evaluate in the investment opportunities based on the following. One is that our investment goals, any investment that we make, whether it's within the container or outside the container space, but first and foremost that we need to make sure that we create long-term sustainable value for our shareholder. And secondly, any investment we make have to have business rationale in the sense that it complements to our existing business, as well as satisfy our customers need. And we have a very disciplined investment criteria, both qualitative and quantitative in the sense that make sure that financially it's accretive and that -- and also have the impact on the -- evaluate the impact on our balance sheet, as well as looking at the business rationale, the customer operation and cost perspective.

So, you are right, that is -- the last acquisition that we have made is GCI. The answer to that is that we continuously own it in the market. We evaluate opportunities and the risk. Our key focus is really looking at the right opportunity that meets our investment objective and possibly meet our investment criteria. Once those opportunities arises, whether it's in the container sector or is in adjacent sector, we are able to execute as the GCI. So this is matter -- but we are disciplined. We're looking for the right opportunities.

David Sokol -- Chairman of the Board

Yeah. I think the other -- this is Dave Sokol, the other thing to recognize is we really didn't start this diversification effort until a year ago once we had Bing on and our team transitioned over. And the direction the board has given is capital allocation is critical and only investing in transactions that have significant accretive value to our shareholders is what we're going to do. And so we've evaluated a lot of things, we'll continue to. The developmental projects like Swiber take time. By history, in that sector, you build real long term value overtime, acquisitions and additional lease charter opportunities can happen more quickly, but they have to make economic sense for us.

And I think one of the things the sector has suffered from in the past is sort of a hand to mouth financial survival mentality in many cases over dividend, very low credit quality. And we're just not going to do that. We're going to maintain a solid credit capability. We're going to keep as Torsten is doing with the operation side, have the best operations platform in the industry, satisfy the customers needs and then some -- and then as opportunities come along, we'll invest in them. But, if we don't have an appropriate rate of return on a transaction, we're just -- we're not going to go forward with it.

And, in my history, cycles turn and opportunities come and those who are best prepared to take advantage of them make the best when those opportunities come, but it is a process of evaluation and finding the right ones. And like I said, no hesitation on our part to move forward, we think we've got the balance sheet trajectory where we want it and the liquidity and availability of capital now is very significant. And I think we've accreted our credit metrics at least a full notch, at least in the last year.

And so as the opportunities come about, we'll take advantage of them, but we're not, we've got a very good platform and don't need to stretch to do something. And frankly, my experience has been that when people stretch to do transactions, just so they have announcements, that ultimately is shareholder harmful, not beneficial.

Frank Galanti -- Stifel Nicolaus -- Analyst

Okay, great, that's very helpful. And then I guess the second question I have is about the modification of the time charters. From the Seaspan perspective, how much of the negotiations are focused on the ability to pull cash forward, to bring in capital versus the mocking upside potential of being able to recharter those vessels out?

Bing Chen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, this is Bing again. Our focus is first is for our customers' needs. We don't really have liquidity needs to pull this cash forward, rather is to facilitate our customers. business transformation need. As I stated earlier, this is more of our normal course of business, our customer come first for a variety of different needs. in this case, it's specifically because they changed their business focus. So therefore, we accommodate their need, leveraging our network of other customers that we have. And we are able to leverage our asset lifecycle management expertise, which is something we're very proud and we're good at doing. And that actually is the activities, the value that we provided to both the -- our customers, the ones that initiate this request and also other customers not in this sector, in general that they have. And for ourselves, this is once again, in addition, this is the core competence that we have as part of the vessel lifecycle management experts, you have to provide this type of service.

David Sokol -- Chairman of the Board

Yeah, I think another piece of that is, the customer had a objective, given their change in business status. And the key was to find a solution to work for them, a solution that could involve some of our other customers who could benefit from this modification. And then to make sure that at a minimum, we retained our full net present value of both cash and earnings from the contractual obligations that existed. And frankly I can speak for the Board extremely proud of the team's efforts to accomplish all three of those things, the customer achieved their goals, it was pleased with the outcome.

Our other customers were able to fill some gaps in their chartering needs that benefited them. And we get more than the full net present value of both the cash and the earnings through the transaction.

So it was one of those things where when a customer need you, you need to be there and find solutions, that doesn't mean and the customer never expected us to contribute to the process. They just asked us, can you help us find solutions here that are happy for everybody? And the team did an extraordinary job. And it's unlikely that the same type of transaction will continue to be seen, but if it does, we'd want the team to respond exactly the same way.

Frank Galanti -- Stifel Nicolaus -- Analyst

Okay, that's very helpful. Thanks very much. That's all I had.

Operator

(Operator Instructions) Your next question comes from the line of Fotis Giannakoulis from Morgan Stanley, your line is open.

Fotis Giannakoulis -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Yes, hi gentlemen, and thank you. I want to focus again on the charter modification. And if you can give us some reason why the charter would like to modify and get rid of these vessels, are these vessels not desirable by the specific customer? Also if you can give us an idea of what is going to be the impact in the posterior gears, I know that you do not give 2020 guidance, but I was wondering how -- what would be the difference in the projected EBITDA based on today's rate. And one last question, if you can also tell us how the movement -- if the movement in the balance sheet some of the lead liabilities becoming current are related to this transaction?

Bing Chen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, this is Bing again, I will answer the first question and Ryan will help with the other two questions you have. Once again, the reason why the customer decided to modify the contracts for simple reasons, because they have changed their business strategy, they are focusing their other activities other than the container shipping activities. So they would like to exit that space and that is the sole reason why they want to modify the contract. And Ryan will be able to give you some -- the sense as to what the impacts of the future years and also your third question.

Ryan Courson -- Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Bing. So from a guidance standpoint, you're right, we don't provide forward guidance on 2019. And we did update the revenue guidance there. So you can kind of see what the impact is for 2019. What I would say for -- thinking about it for 2020, 2021 and beyond, we provide very detailed disclosure as it relates to our vessels and our related charter parties in our 6-K. That will be coming out in the next few days and once you take a look at that, you'll get a sense of what the forward-looking impact would be. On the liquidity side, Fotis, I think you're talking about the increase in the current portion of long-term debt?

Fotis Giannakoulis -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Yes, and there were kind of $60 million financial obligations that they became current and there was also a significant increase in the capital leases that they became current?

Ryan Courson -- Chief Financial Officer

Yes, so those were just normal course payments, there was no increase in current liabilities as it relates to or no material increase as it relates to the charter modification. The $160 million current portion of the operating lease liabilities relates to the change in accounting standards, which puts operating leases on our balance sheet. That's discussed in more detail in our disclosures and filings, but that is just the update in the operating lease accounting standard.

Fotis Giannakoulis -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Okay. thank you. One more question about the financing, these vessels that they came out of leases, are they able to get any debt right now or they are in the categories that the lenders would not like to finance without a charter. And also you have a couple of 10,000 TEU ships which are unencumbered, that they are operating in the spot market. How much debt these vessels can get. And if you can let us know the third vessel that you have financed, how much debt it has right now?

Ryan Courson -- Chief Financial Officer

So, first, you have a couple of questions in there and I'll try to address them all. The first thing just to maybe a clarification, none of our 10,000 TEU ships are on the spot market right now, all are on multi-year contracts. From a debt standpoint, one of the things that we think about internally that we believe is important and perhaps it's important to discuss here is, the debt capital structure on a ship by ship basis may make sense for some members in the industry, but for us, we are a large corporate entity with significant amount of cash flows across the corporate base.

And so when we think about financing, it's not just on a ship by ship basis, but across our broader portfolio. That leads to a lot of interesting opportunities, as it relates to the long term capital structure for our business. And it goes back to one of our key tenants of improving our financial strength, which is balance sheet flexibility. And so, whether it's an individual ship or a fleet of sister ships or a set of charters, we have a lot of autonomy on how we think about financing assets in a portfolio.

So, from a individual ship and within these charter modifications, we don't think about it on a ship by ship basis. As you can see from our capital structure developments, we're very focused on de-leveraging and increasing the flexibility and right now we have 37 unencumbered assets, which allows us kind of a wide range of options of how we think about financing the total portfolio.

Fotis Giannakoulis -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Thank you, Ryan. Thank you, Bing.

Operator

I'm showing no further questions at this time. I would like to turn the conference back to Bing Chen for closing remarks.

Bing Chen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Okay, well, thank you very much. Thank you everyone for taking the time for the call and I wish you all have a great day. Thank you very much.

Operator

Ladies and gentlemen, this concludes today's conference call. Thank you for your participation and have a wonderful day. You may all disconnect.

Duration: 38 minutes

Call participants:

Ryan Courson -- Chief Financial Officer

Bing Chen -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Peter Curtis -- Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial and Technical Officer

William -- Citigroup -- Analyst

Frank Galanti -- Stifel Nicolaus -- Analyst

David Sokol -- Chairman of the Board

Fotis Giannakoulis -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

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