Star Bulk Carriers – Highlights from the Capital Link Presentation Series
New York, January 17, 2022.
Capital Link hosted a presentation by the senior management of Star Bulk Carriers (NASDAQ: SBLK) on Tuesday, January 10, 2023. During the 45-minute session, Hamish Norton, President, Christos Begleris, co – CFO, Simos Spyrou, co – CFO, Charis Plakantonakis, Chief Strategy Officer, Nicos Rescos, Chief Operating Officer, Constantinos Nanopoulos, Deputy CFO, and Constantinos Simantiras, Deputy Chief Investment Officer and & Head of Market Research, gave a slide presentation and responded to viewers’ questions regarding the company’s fleet, ESG efforts, and outlook for the dry bulk industry as part of Capital Link’s Company Presentation Series.
REPLAY OF THE FULL SESSION
A replay of the full session of the presentation and the extensive Q&A can be accessed at:
Highlights from Star Bulk’s session at the Capital Link Presentation Series include the following:
Star Bulk Carriers Fleet
With a fleet numbering 128 ships, Star Bulk Carriers is the largest publicly traded dry bulk shipping company. While the fleet, which has an average age of 10.4 years, is diversified in terms of size and cargoes, a little over 50% of Star Bulk’s vessels are the larger Newcastlemax and Capesize ships.
As President Hamish Norton noted, since 2018, the company has doubled its fleet size through several M&A transactions, where shipowners got shares for their fleets and several of them joined the Board of Directors. Notably, Star Bulk’s Board of Directors is made up of institutional investors, shipping experts, and shipowners. “We act like shareholders, we think like shareholders, in part because we are shareholders,” Hamish stated. “And as the result of this strong governance, management is incentivized to focus on shareholders returns.”
Continued Improvement of Balance Sheet
As of November 15, 2022, the company’s total liquidity has reached $417 million, while its total gross debt totals to $1.36 billion, Christos Begleris, Co-CFO, said.
The company has been focusing on refinancing older facilities, with the goal of reducing debt interest costs. In the last two years, Star Bulk’s strategy involving refinancing of about $800 million has saved the company around $15 million in interest costs per year.
Star Bulk’s adjusted net debt has been reduced by 43% since September 2019 to $946 million by November 15, 2022, while its cash and liquidity has increased by 256% to $417 million in the same period.
Focus on Dividend Policy
Hamish Norton, President, highlighted Star Bulk’s focus on its dividend policy. Quarterly, after accumulating a minimum of $2.1 million cash per vessel on the balance sheet, the company distributes the excess as a dividend.
He stated that during the last twelve months, adjusted EBITDA was $1.03 billion, adjusted net income was $819 million and the company distributed dividends of $6.5 per share or $669 million in total.
Scrubber Investment Fully Repaid – Benefits the Bottom Line
Star Bulk’s fleet is almost entirely scrubber fitted—with 120 of 128 vessels equipped with this technology.
As of June 2022, the company has repaid the entire cost of its scrubber investment.
The Hi5 bunker spreads hovers currently at around $200 per ton and Star Bulk captures more than 95% of it. Nicos Rescos, COO, stated that he expects the spread to remain elevated throughout 2023 and provided a sensitivity analysis for the scrubber benefit. Indicatively, at the current spread of $200, this could translate into an annualized scrubber benefit of $140 million.
Vessel Operating Expenses Among the Lowest in Industry – Top Safety Rankings
Star Bulk has one of the lowest average OPEX costs in the dry bulk industry, with costs averaging $4,769 per vessel per day in Q3.
Also, the company has one of the lowest overheads per ship per day in the industry, with net cash G&A at $950 per day for Q3 2022.
Additionally, the company consistently has been among the top 5 dry bulk operators in the Rightship Ratings and achieved the top rating in September 2022.
Commitment to ESG Efforts
The company is “committed to reporting transparently” on its ESG efforts, Charis Plakantonakis, Chief Strategy Officer, stated. She noted that, to this end, Star Bulk has published its comprehensive ESG report annually for the last four years.
Its milestones in terms of its ESG efforts in the past year include the use of advanced vessel performance systems, as well as the wide implementation of technologies that improve the energy efficiency of their vessels.
Star Bulk also participates in the Carbon Disclosure Project, which aids companies in actively decreasing their environmental impact by both identifying areas for improvement as well as heralding positive steps the company is taking for the planet.
The company received a B rating in 2022, an improvement from the -B score it obtained the previous year.
Its employee wellbeing program, which includes flexible working schemes, mental health support, and employee engagement activities, is an essential part of the company’s ESG efforts, Plakantonakis stressed.
Supramax Segment “Very Weak” But Expected to Recover After Chinese New Year
Constantinos Simantiras, Deputy Chief Investment Officer & Head of Market Research, said that in the next two years, he expects the “relaxation of strict zero-covid policy and the reopening of the Chinese economy to have a very positive effect for dry bulk ton miles. It should benefit larger sizes.”
Simantiras noted that the Supramax segment “… is definitely the weakest sector in dry bulk industry right now and especially in the Pacific. In the Atlantic the market is slightly better,” he continued. “We do believe that there will be a recovery after the Chinese New Year,” he asserted.
Simantiras stated that “Especially on the smaller sizes, such as Supramaxes, the demand starts to go through its seasonal downturn, which begins around November and bottoms out by February.” He expects demand to increase after the Chinese New Year, which occurs in late January, and the Latin American grain season, which takes place in Spring.
Capesize Segment to Experience Growth
In terms of Capesize vessels, Simantiras stated that the sector is expected to experience a boost this year due to China’s announcement of a stimulus and support for the real estate market in the country. This, along with China’s decision to postpone plan to reduce emissions from the steel industry, “should provide a significant upside over the next years and a very strong demand case for the dry bulk industry,” he said.
“It’s worth noting, though, that since November Chinese imports have experienced a major rebound and we are definitely at the early stages of the demand recovery,” Simantiras continued.
“Not the Right Time” for Fleet Renewal
When asked how the Company plans to renew its fleet in the coming years, Norton stated that the company does not believe that it is “the right time” to renew its fleet, citing the expense of newbuilds as well as the lack of adequate technology regarding decarbonization.
Norton stated that, when the time comes to renew the fleet, the company may do so through ordering or corporate acquisitions. Star Bulk would likely finance that strategy with “equity and some debt,” he said. Norton stressed, however, that the company would only do only at the right pricing level and if decarbonization technologies were advanced.
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