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After global merchandise trade dropped ~20% in the wake of the Covid-19 policy response, shares of shipping companies collapsed, underperforming even the airline ETF. The industry now trades cheaper than at any time on this side of the millennium – less than 25% of liquidation value for some companies. Braxton believes this is unwarranted. Even during the seasonally weakest month of year, tanker earnings are still covering operating costs. In spite of analyst downgrades and widespread panic, tanker companies have used hefty profits from storing excess oil to rapidly deleverage.
Although ULCV containerships are currently garnering far better rates than tankers, Braxton feels that this masks a precarious structural balance between supply and demand. Containership demand has actually plummeted, and rates are only being propped up by an ad hoc cartel of dubious legality. Whereas ample tanker demolition candidates provide a cushion, a young fleet severely limits scrapping potential for ULCVs. Worse, new capacity to the tune of 24% of the existing ULCV fleet is set to hit the water over the coming years.
Braxton discusses corporate governance in the industry and shares a favorite current tanker pick – International Seaways. INSW trades at half of liquidation value, with its strong balance sheet further fortified by an FSO joint venture with Euronav that generates consistent contracted cash flow. The company is repurchasing shares.
Distressed Mortgage Notes
Braxton outlines his investment in the Navios Maritime Acquisition Corporation First Priority Ship Mortgage Notes due 2021. The bonds trade at a highly distressed valuation, despite solid covenants and a short time to maturity. Braxton says that the value of the underlying fleet and NWC fully covers the bonds and implies a positive value for the equity.
NMAC is now aggressively repurchasing bonds out of cash flow (most of which is contracted). While the embezzlement ratio is on the high side even for the shipping industry, Braxton feels that management incentives are likely to favor noteholders.
Staying In Touch With Braxton Gann
Staying In Touch With Eric Schleien