Tankers are huge beasts, not known for being particularly fast or agile. The tanker business, however, seems a bit more nimble these days. Whatever the sector's fate, OMI
Results for the second quarter were quite solid. Revenue climbed 49%, while operating income grew by 38%. The company generated nearly $136 million in free cash flow for the first six months of the year (versus $123 million in net income) and repurchased 3.2 million shares.
Interestingly, this company runs on a mix of spot pricing and time charters. With spot pricing, the owner charges a set price for a particular voyage, but is expected to cover all costs. Time charters, on the other hand, involve leasing out a boat for a set period of time, with both owner and customer sharing the costs.
This works as a damping mechanism, giving the company both downside protection and upside potential. At present, about two-thirds of the company's fleet is operating at spot, with the remainder under charters.
Of course, tanker rates have been an issue lately. After spiking up last year, rates fell (severely, in some cases) in summer due partly to lower U.S. and Chinese demand. Recent rates for very large crude carriers, or VLCCs (which carry as much as 2 million barrels of oil), and Aframax-class ships (which carry .7 million bbl) have been rising again. Unfortunately, rates for the Suezmax (which carry 1 million bbl) and other product carriers that OMI runs have not similarly improved yet.
Frankly, I have no idea what's going to happen in the tanker market over the next few years. Demand for oil should continue to increase, which should lead to higher demand for tankers. What's more, shipyards are capacity-constrained, so the market shouldn't be flooded with as much new capacity as in prior booms.
Of course, the demand-supply balance partially hinges on scrap rates for old tankers. Existing regulations should send 30% of today's fleet to the scrapyard by 2010, but I don't think anybody knows exactly how the scrap process will go. Higher scrap metal prices (and lower tanker rates) might encourage early scrapping, while higher tanker rates or low scrap prices might encourage operators to squeeze every last bit out of their boats.
In any case, I like OMI's position in the market. The company's fleet is quite young, all of it is double-hulled, and some of it is ice-rated (thus commanding higher rates). What's more, I think it has quality management; as I've said before, management quality matters in every industry. Sure, I'd like to see a higher dividend and lower debt. But this is the stock market, not Burger King. You don't always get to have things your way.
OMI doesn't offer a cushion of high current dividend income, as do other tanker companies such as Frontline
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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).