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Belships ASA: Report 1st quarter 2024

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SIMPLIFYING THE BUSINESS AND 100 PER CENT PAYOUT

HIGHLIGHTS

  • EBITDA of USD 31.3m including USD 4.7m from Lighthouse Navigation
  • Net result of USD 15.7m
  • Declared dividend of NOK 0.60 per share – 100 per cent pay out due to solid cash position
  • TCE of USD 16 731 gross per day for owned fleet – 29 per cent outperformance of BSI-58
  • Prepaid USD 13.5m of bank debt – increasing the number of debt free vessels to four
  • 74 per cent of ship days in Q2 2024 are fixed at USD 16 700 gross per day
  • 43 per cent of ship days in the next four quarters are fixed at USD 16 500 gross per day
  • Cash breakeven for 2024 of about USD 10 900 per day per vessel
  • Modern fleet of 40x Supra/Ultramax vessels including 10x newbuildings

Subsequent events
Belships has entered into an agreement to divest its stake of 50 per cent in Lighthouse Navigation Pte Ltd, which is a dry bulk operating company based in Asia. In exchange for these shares, Belships has acquired 33 per cent of the shares in Lighthouse Navigation Management AS, increasing Belships’ ownership to 67 per cent in the company which focuses on dry bulk operating in the Atlantic. In addition, Belships will receive a cash consideration of USD 14m which will be paid to Belships over the next 15 months. This transaction is aimed at focusing and simplifying Belships’ investment within dry bulk operating. Please see further information under ‘Lighthouse Navigation’ below.

Belships has expanded its newbuilding program with two new 64 000 dwt Ultramax bulk carriers which will be delivered in 2028. The vessels are leased on similar terms as previously announced transactions, and Belships is not required to make any down payments for these vessels. The agreements are conditional upon certain steps to be completed by the parties involved.

Belships has agreed to amend a USD 90m Term Loan Facility for six vessels, which is the only senior secured bank loan in the company today. Four vessels will remain debt free. The Loan Facility has an interest rate of SOFR+195 bps which is 55 bps lower than the previous facility. The loan matures in April 2029 and the first instalment is due in 2025. Furthermore, a new undrawn Accordion Tranche of USD 100m will be available. The lenders in the Loan Facility are DNB Bank, Nordea and Sparebank 1 SR-Bank.

Financial results commentary
Belships reports a net result of USD 15.7m for the quarter compared to USD 22.6m in the previous quarter. The lower net result is primarily caused by a lower EBITDA contribution from Lighthouse Navigation.

Time charter equivalent earnings (TCE) in the quarter was USD 16 731 gross per vessel per day. In comparison, the Baltic Supramax Index (BSI-58) averaged USD 12 961 gross per day. Ultramax vessels typically earn 115 to 120 per cent of the Supramax index. The remaining outperformance is due to period time charter contracts at levels above market rates.  

Ship operating expenses amounted to USD 5 512 per vessel per day during the quarter compared to USD 5 403 per vessel per day in the previous quarter.

Fleet status
The fleet sailed without significant off-hire with a total of 2 718 on-hire vessel days in the quarter.

Since December, Belships vessels have not transited the Red Sea, and none of our vessels have been involved in any related incidents.


Contract coverageQ2 2024Q3 2024Q4 2024Q1 2025
Fixed-rate contracts74%46%32%20%
Average fixed-rate (USD/day)16 70016 60016 25016 500
Index-linked contracts21%35%26%23%
Open/Uncontracted5%19%42%57%
100%100%100%100%

Belships currently has 10 vessels chartered out on floating index-linked contracts on varying durations, at an average premium of 116 per cent to the Baltic Supramax Index (BSI-58). Belships has the option to convert any part of the remaining period to a fixed rate based on the prevailing FFA curve from time to time.

Cash breakeven for 2024 is expected to be about USD 10 900 per vessel per day. This includes OPEX, interest and amortisation, G&A and drydocking expenditures.

Newbuildings

BELGRACE          expected delivery Q4 2024
BELFORTUNE    expected delivery Q4 2025
BELFOX                expected delivery Q4 2025-Q1 2026
BELFUTURE       expected delivery Q1 2026
BELAVANTI         expected delivery H2 2026
BELROSSO         expected delivery H2 2026
BELTEMPO         expected delivery H1 2027
BELVICTORY      expected delivery Q2-Q3 2027
NEWBUILD 9      expected delivery H1 2028
NEWBUILD 10    expected delivery Q2-Q3 2028

Belships now has a total of 10 newbuildings under construction at Japanese shipyards with delivery between 2024 and 2028. All vessels are leased on time charter for a period of 7 to 10 years from delivery, with purchase options around current market levels. There is no obligation to purchase any of the vessels. Cash breakeven for the vessels upon delivery is about USD 14 250 per day on average. Belships is not using any equity, therefore this newbuilding program will not have any impact on cash and dividend capacity during the construction period.

The Japanese-designed bulk carriers entering the fleet represent the highest quality and lowest fuel consumption available in the market today and will contribute to further reduce Belships’ carbon emissions on an intensity-basis.

Lighthouse Navigation
Lighthouse Navigation recorded an EBITDA of USD 4.7m for the quarter and continues to contribute to Belships profitability and dividend capacity. About 40 per cent of the EBITDA result in Q1 2024 was contributed by Lighthouse Navigation in the Atlantic.  

Further to the announcement about the change in ownership in Lighthouse Navigation, please note as follows:

Lighthouse Navigation Pte Ltd was founded in 2009 and operates mainly in Asia. Belships owned 50 per cent of this company, the leading employees own the remaining shares.

Lighthouse Navigation Management AS (and its 100 per cent subsidiary Lighthouse Navigation AS) was founded in 2020 and operates mainly in the Atlantic and shares an office with Belships in Oslo. Belships owned 34 per cent of this company, Lighthouse Navigation Pte Ltd owned 33 per cent, and the leading employees own the remaining shares.

After the announced transaction has been completed Belships will no longer own shares in Lighthouse Navigation Pte Ltd, and the shareholding in Lighthouse Navigation Management AS has increased to 67 per cent. In addition, Belships will receive a cash consideration of USD 14m which will be paid over the next 15 months.

As from Q2 2024 the reported and consolidated results from Lighthouse Navigation will only be from the Atlantic operating company.

The average EBITDA per quarter in the last three years for Lighthouse Navigation in the Atlantic has been USD 3.8m.

Sustainability
Belships aims for high standards in corporate governance and is well placed to deliver emission cuts in line with industry ambitions for 2030. Belships publishes a sustainability report on an annual basis (ESG Report) reflecting our commitment to transparency and efforts to meet investor and stakeholder expectations.

Belships was ranked in the top quartile in the Webber Research Report: 2023 ESG Scorecard, which aims to identify where each company ranks against its listed peers within the shipping industry.

Belships’ vessels are compliant with the new emission regulations from IMO without additional investments signalling the competitive advantage of owning a modern fleet.

Financial and corporate matters
At the end of the quarter, cash and cash equivalents totalled USD 120.2m, whilst interest bearing bank debt amounted to USD 89.0m, after having prepaid USD 13.5m in the quarter.

Belships now has four unencumbered vessels.

Leasing liabilities at the end of the quarter amounted to USD 453.6m.

All leased vessels are calculated with the assumption that purchase options to acquire the vessels will be exercised. However, Belships has no obligation to acquire any of the leased vessels.
All lease agreements have fixed interest rates for the entire duration of the contracts and all purchase options are denominated in USD.

At the end of the quarter, book value per share amounted to NOK 13.1 (USD 1.21), corresponding to a book equity ratio of 34 per cent. Value-adjusted equity is significantly higher.

Dividend policy
Belships ASA aims to distribute quarterly cash dividends targeting about 50 per cent of net result adjusted for non-recurring items. Other surplus cash flow may be used for accelerated amortisation of debt, share buy-backs or vessel acquisitions considered to be accretive to shareholders’ value.

Dividend payment
Based on the financial result in Q1 2024 the Board declared a dividend payment of NOK 0.60 per share (USD 13.6m in total) equivalent to 100 per cent of the net result adjusted for minority interests. The decision to pay out 100 per cent was made on the basis of recent transactions announced and the solid cash position.

This brings the total dividends paid out since Q2 2021 to NOK 9.30 per share, which is 140 per cent of the share price from the time of the merger between Belships and the Lighthouse Group in December 2018. Total declared dividends amount to USD 237.9m which corresponds to 73 per cent of the net result adjusted for minority interests in the period.

Market highlights
In the first quarter, the Baltic Supramax Index (BSI-58) averaged USD 12 961 per day – down from USD 14 148 per day in the preceding quarter. The Baltic Ultramax Index (BSI-63) averaged USD
15 268 per day in the first quarter, down from USD 16 189 per day in the preceding quarter. Average earnings in the first quarter were relatively high historically, with only the first quarters of 2021 and 2022 being higher in the last 15 years.

Asset values continued to rise in the first quarter. According to Fearnleys assessments, a 5-year-old Japanese-built Ultramax rose from USD 30.0m to USD 34.0m, and a 10-year-old Japanese-built Ultramax rose from USD 24.0m to USD 27.5m.

According to Fearnleys, preliminary estimates for Q1 2024 shipment volumes were 272 million tonnes, down from 280 million tonnes in Q4 2023. The highest growth rates (year-on-year) were seen in iron ore (28 per cent), steels (27 per cent) and fertilizers (7.5 per cent). Minor bulks (-3.5 per cent) and coal (-4.5 per cent) contributed negatively, whereas breakbulk (0.2 per cent) and grains (2.7%) grew slightly. Total shipment volume growth was 3.4 per cent.

Port congestion, as measured by the average waiting time in port for ships to discharge, remained at similar levels to the fourth quarter of last year. However, waiting time in port for ships to load dropped, as the grain shipment season and ensuing delays on the east coast of South America ended. The average sea voyage duration for the total Supramax/Ultramax fleet continued to increase in the first quarter, due to vessels avoiding the Suez Canal. The total average voyage duration thus remained unchanged in the first quarter compared to the fourth quarter.

37 Supra/Ultramax vessels were delivered in the first quarter of 2024, compared to 38 vessels in the previous quarter, according to Fearnleys. 119 vessels remain to be delivered in 2024. The number of ships delivered per quarter compares to an existing fleet of Supra/Ultramax vessels on the water today of about 4 100 in total. Fleet growth has been around 3.5 per cent since May 2023. According to Fearnleys, this rate of fleet growth will be maintained through 2024. The orderbook for dry bulk remains close to all-time lows at slightly over 8 per cent.

Relatively low newbuilding activity for dry bulk continues as higher prices as well as full orderbooks and continued high demand for other vessel segments dictate the position with shipyards. Lack of conviction and alternatives for fuel and propulsion systems also appear to restrain new orders to some extent.

Available delivery positions with reputable shipyards appear increasingly distant, with some new orders being reported in 2027, and 2028. A potential lead time of four years for a bulk carrier is unprecedented.

Outlook
The Baltic Exchange Supramax index is currently at about USD 16 000, which translates into USD 18 500 for Ultramax bulk carriers in the spot market. The FFA market (Forward Freight Agreements) currently indicates a market average of around USD 17 500 for an Ultramax bulk carrier for the remaining part of 2024. Ship values have increased significantly, and demand is particularly strong for modern and economical Ultramax bulk carriers.

The change in ownership in Lighthouse Navigation companies allows Belships to focus and simplify its investment in dry bulk operating. We believe this will make our company easier to understand and contribute to increasing the market valuation of Belships.

Belships has fixed-rate contract coverage for 74 per cent of ship days in Q2 2024 at about USD 16 700 per day, and 43 per cent of ship days in the next four quarters at about USD 16 500 per day. Furthermore, we now have ten vessels chartered out on floating rate, index-linked contracts. This is because we believe the rates and market sentiment has a good probability of improving during the next year. All period contracts are fixed with highly reputable and recognised charterers.

Belships financing has been secured for many years ahead, and most of the debt is with fixed interest rates significantly below current market levels. Belships is therefore able to combine meaningful leverage with a low cash breakeven of USD 10 900 per day per vessel in 2024.

With 10 Ultramax newbuildings under construction for delivery between 2024 and 2028, Belships will be taking over new vessels whilst the orderbook and the rate of supply growth approaches the lowest levels in 30 years. Since they are all leased without Belships investing any equity, this will not affect our dividend capacity before delivery. We believe the best way for Belships to approach the green shift is to own and operate the most efficient vessels currently available, with a financing structure that gives unparalleled optionality and flexibility.

We are focused on financial discipline and returning capital to our shareholders. A competitive return for our shareholders is to be obtained through an increase in the value of the company’s shares and the payment of dividends, as measured by the total return.

Based on Belships’ current contract coverage and market expectations, we expect to generate free cash flow and continue to pay quarterly dividends.

8 May 2024

THE BOARD OF BELSHIPS ASA

For further information, please contact Lars Christian Skarsgård, Belships CEO, phone +47 977 68 061 or e-mail LCS@belships.no

This information is subject to the disclosure requirements pursuant to Section 5-12 the Norwegian Securities Trading Act

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