Sunday, September 27, 2009

Odfjell is well positioned in the current shipping crisis

Odfjell is one of the big four traditional parcel chemical tanker operators together with Stolt Nielsen, JO Tankers and Tokyo Marine. Odfjell controls 17.8% of the global core chemical market. They have an integrated logistical system with tank storage, large chemical tanker fleet and sizeable contract book with end users. They are expanding their tank storage business to complement their ME partnership with NCC for Middle East refinery exports to the Far East.

Odfjell is a mature chemical parcel operator with the largest share of the world market of any peer operator. They are well positioned to weather the financial meltdown and current shipping market slowdown. In recent boom years, they expanded moderately their fleet without taking on excessive leverage.  They relied on time-chartered tonnage to fill excess demand. Their large contract book protects them on the downside.

The drop in cargo volume and nominations has caused bottom line damage. EBITDA first half 2009 for their parcel chemical tankers was US$ 49 million, compared to US$ 101 million in the same period 2008. Operating result (EBIT) was a loss of US$ 9 million first half 2009, compared to a gain of US$ 47 million in 2008. Compared to their peers in dry cargo, tankers and container; they are sharing the pain of the downturn, but their situation is comparatively more manageable.

Odfjell is focussing on building up their partnership with their Saudi-Arabian partner National Chemical Carriers (NCC) in the Middle East. In the first quarter the entered into an agreement with NCC to bare-boat charter three 37 000 stainless steel parcel tankers for ten years with purchase options. The three ships are NCC Jubail (1996), NCC Mekka (1995) and NCC Riyad (1995). Furthermore, Odfjell entered into three to six year time charters for three ships that earlier were owned by NCC. These ships are Bow Baha (24 728 dwt/1988), Bow Asir (23 001 dwt/1982) and Bow Arar (23 002 dwt/1982).

In June 2009 Odfjell SE signed a new 50/50 joint venture agreement with NCC to establish a company in Dubai, to be named NCC-Odfjell, to commercially operate our respective fleets of coated (IMO 2/3) chemical tankers of 40 000 dwt and above, in a joint pool for trading in the chemicals, vegetable oils and clean petroleum products markets on a world-wide basis, with emphasis on the growing production and export of the Middle East region. The new company will start operations early next year with 15 vessels and a total dwt capacity of nearly 660.000 tons, which is planned to grow to 31 vessels and total dwt of nearly 1.4 millions tons over the next three years.

Stolt is competing with Odfjell in their partnership with Gulf Navigation where they have ordered a series of Dwt 44.000 coated chemical tankers from Korea, but Gulf is a much weaker partner in providing local commercial business than NCC.  Stolt has recently refused to take delivery of one of these units due late performance.

The Odfjell expansion in its Singapore tank terminals is to facilitate the Far East export business that they expect to develop from the Middle East refinery projects coming on on line. In this context, it is not surprising that senior debt financing for the tank terminal project was easily forthcoming.

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