Although the second quarter has barely started, shipping rates so far have been a major disappointment, at least as far as what DryShips (NASDAQ:DRYS) and Navios Maritimes Partners (NYSE:NMM) expected, and with what Diana Shipping (NYSE:DSX) feared. What's going on? Angeliki Frangou, CEO of Navios Maritime Partners, will host a conference call on April 29 that will be full of insights to listen for.
Where's the party?
Both DryShips and its CEO, George Economou, have been extremely excited about their outlook for the dry shipping market, which they view as a "clear sign of a balance supply demand picture." The company had expected a "hot" shipping market for the last month, and for it to continue over the next two months. Instead, shipping rates have done little else but crash. Was DryShips wrong, or is the heat just delayed?
Diana Shipping was also confident in its outlook, but as usual was far more cautious than DryShips. Diana Shipping did warn of a number of challenges facing the industry, especially those posed by China, but that was more for the medium term and beyond. In the short term, Diana Shipping was expecting better times as long as "newbuilding orders do not flood the markets with vessels." Not that this means much to Diana Shipping -- its entire fleet is in fixed-rate, long-term contracts, but the company tends to have spot-on analysis.
Questions for Frangou and her team
Frangou has a solid reputation in the dry shipping industry and on Wall Street, and comes off as a straight shooter that will tell you the good and the bad. Fortune magazine named her the 50th most powerful businesswoman in the world in 2011. For that same year, she was named "Commodore of the Year" by the Connecticut Maritime Association.
It's not to say that she and her team are never wrong, but she's well-respected and generally reliable when it comes to telling it like it is. Last quarter, she was quite bullish on the outlook for the industry and said, for the second quarter in a row, that "the drybulk environment has brightened significantly" and that "the cycle is turning." So far, neither has been happening. Does the Frangou still feel that way?
Does Navios Maritime Partners believe DryShips simply turned out to be wrong, or does it believe the "hot" shipping market is just temporarily delayed? Is the fear that Diana Shipping had about newbuild orders flooding the market rearing its ugly head? What does Navios Maritime Partners see on the global delivery and demolition schedule? All questions to keep in my mind for tomorrow's call.
Dividend and supply shift
One of the best indicators, beyond words, will be discussion about the company's dividend policy. Navios Maritime Partners currently pays a generous dividend of $0.44 per share quarterly. Last we heard, Navios Maritime Partners was committed to paying at least that much through the end of 2015, with possibility of increases before then. Any shift in the dividend, higher or lower, will be very telling.
Navios Maritime Partners, DryShips, Diana Shipping, and just about everybody else in the industry have been calling for an acceleration in the scrapping or demolition of old, inefficient ships that are plaguing the industry and causing excess supply. Is that forecast of excessive supply finally starting to come to true, especially when considering the recent low rates?
It will also be interesting to hear what Navios Maritime Partners has to say about iron ore and China. DryShips has been calling for global iron ore prices to fall below $100 per ton, which would open the floodgates wide for imported iron ore, since much of the domestic Chinese supply cannot compete if prices were to fall below that level. Does Navios Maritime Partners share this sentiment?
Navios Maritime Partners' earnings report and conference call promises set the tone for others in the industry, such as DryShips and Diana Shipping, as the dry shipper kicks off earnigns announcements for the industry.