Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Omega in bankruptcy: Test case for other weak listed shipping companies

Omega Navigation (NASDAQ: ONAV) is a product tanker play with fleet of 12 vessels plus a joint venture with Glencore (LSE: GLEN) .  Most of its fleet on time charter to Glencore.  The fleet is divided between MR and LR 1 units all built in Korea.  The company only had really one good year in 2007.  It was hard hit by the 2008 meltdown.  It had been filing for delays in publishing accounts, but known to be in protracted debt restructuring and suffering from high leverage.

Since this was a vessel provider business model with a relatively small fleet, it was dependent mainly on fleet growth and favorable market conditions to generate profit and value for shareholders. It has one very large customer, Glencore. It remains to be seen what will happen to the Glencore joint venture companies, which have not been included in the Chapter 11 reorganization filings.

Omega entered the product tanker market in boom market conditions, acquiring assets at high prices with leverage. Its CEO Kassiotis had been  commercial director of Target Marine S.A.  He tried to lock in some benefits of the firm charter rates, but its 2009 accounts show a significant drop in time charter equivalent earnings. Further its capital gearing on book value was already over 70%.

Omega's main senior lender in 2008 was HSH Nord-bank of Germany. Apparently HSH Nord-bank intervened early in the game when cashflow problems first emerged. Omega under pressure reworked its credit facility and prepaid principal owed under the main facility with a second-lien infusion of US$ 42.5 mio from new lenders NIBC Bank of Holland and Japan’s Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi NFT. Perhaps they were enticed by the fact that this was a public company, the asset quality and the charters; but second lien lending is a highly risky business. Also, this undoubtedly led to a significant increase in financial expense for the service.

Normally, for Omega to get a second mortgage for NIBC and Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi, HSH Nord-bank would require that these institutions sign a subordination agreement, preventing them from taking any action without HSH consent. Meanwhile there is no evidence that Omega tried to sell units to pay down debt. In their September 2010 investor presentation, it claims financing is in place to fund capex commitments.

Omega was too small to benefit with ATM follow on offerings to increase capital. They had to means to take advantage of the downturn in tanker values so they tried to team up with Glencore in a joint venture for this purpose. At this point in Chapter 11, they lack resources and the future of the Glencore joint venture is in question.

No doubt with such attractive assets, other product tanker companies would be interested to purchase them at present market values, but George Kassiotis is hoping to survive under Chapter 11 and keep control of this operation.

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