Archives for category: Sale and Purchase

2017 is shaping up to be a record year for secondhand sales volumes. Meanwhile, newbuilding activity remains at historically low levels. As a result, the ratio of secondhand to newbuild activity has surged, and while this is an indication of the current market environment, it might also be interpreted as an indicator of the ‘market mechanism’ starting to re-balance industry fundamentals.

For the full version of this article, please go to Shipping Intelligence Network.

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Many of shipping’s asset markets appear to offer a fairly reasonable level of liquidity most of the time, but just like the “Karma Chameleon” in the 1983 No.1 song, sometimes this can “come and go” due to a variety of factors. Recently, it appears that S&P market liquidity has been coming on strong in the main volume sectors, and once again there appear to be a number of different drivers behind the changes…

You Come And Go…

As in all economic asset markets, liquidity can change its hue according to the market environment, depending on the appetite of potential buyers and sellers to transact at a given level against a backdrop of a range of factors, including the availability of finance. From much lower or dropping levels of liquidity just a year or so ago, it seems that today S&P market liquidity has been on the up, with things looking increasingly active recently. The graph indicates, for the three main volume sectors, the monthly level of liquidity in terms of the volume of reported sales (in vessel numbers) on an annualised basis, as a percentage of the existing fleet at the start of each month. A 6-month moving average (6mma) is then taken to remove some of the month-to-month volatility and illustrate the general trend.

By George! A New High…

The lines on the graph (unlike in the song lyrics they’re not “red, gold and green”…) show how quickly the liquidity has risen in the main sectors. For bulkcarriers the 6mma has jumped from 4.1% in Feb-16 to 7.2% in Apr-17. In the tanker sector, it increased from 3.3% in Apr-16 to 4.6% in Mar-17, and in the containership sector it has leapt from 2.3% in Feb-16 to 5.5% last month. On a combined basis across the three sectors, the 6mma has increased from 3.5% in Feb-16 to 6.0% in Apr-17, and the monthly figure for Feb-17 reached 9.7%. The 6.0% figure represents the highest 6mma level of liquidity since the onset of the financial crisis in late 2008 (the low point being 2.5% and the average across the period 4.3%).

S&P’s Big Hits…

However, on inspection the drivers look a little different. In the bulkcarrier sector, as has been widely reported, with some improvements in freight market conditions buyer appetite appears to be back, and has driven pricing upwards. Reported sales volumes in the first four months of 2017 stood at 277 units, up more than 50% y-o-y. In the tanker sector, liquidity appears to be coming back after a period in which, against easing markets, prices may have been too high for buyers’ tastes. Again, volumes in the first four month are up by more than 50% y-o-y. In the boxship sector, meanwhile, it’s different once again, with distressed sales to the fore after the cumulative impact of markets which have until now been in the doldrums for some time. Mar-17 saw an all-time record monthly level of containership sales (44) and the year to date figure is closing in on the full year 2016 total.

In The Culture Club?

So, S&P liquidity can come and go, and recently it has clearly been on the way up. For those trying to transact to access tonnage, or exit the market, that’s a big help, and it’s good news too for asset players, an enduring part of the shipping market’s culture. Have a nice day!

SIW1270

The shipping industry has long provided investors with opportunities for asset play, reflecting the volatility in prices and relative shifts in the value of certain classes or ages of ships. Recent months have been no exception, with changes in tempo clearly evident in some shipping sectors. What can conducting a quick survey of the classic asset market indicators tell us today?

Classical Repertoire

One classic indicator (see SIW 1175) of the state of the asset market in any particular sector is the ratio of the 5 year old price to the newbuild price of a similar ship. On the basis of a 25 year lifespan, a 5 year old vessel depreciating evenly would be worth around 80% of the newbuild price. The level of this ratio can demonstrate how keen investors are to purchase assets on the water today.

Change Of Tempo

The graph shows the 5 year old to newbuild price ratio for a Capesize and a VLCC. The ratio is clearly volatile, and recent trends in the Capesize sector are illustrative of how conditions in shipping asset markets can change rapidly. Since the start of 2009, the Capesize ratio has fluctuated within a wide range from 50% (reached in early 2009 and again in early 2016) to 110% (although this was still well below the peak of 160% in mid-2008 at the height of the boom). The ratio has also moved significantly even in the last few weeks, as Capesize secondhand prices have risen robustly. At the end of February 2017, the 5 year old Capesize price stood at $25m, 60% of the newbuild price. By the end of March, the 5 year old price had risen to $33.5m, 80% of the newbuild price and the highest ratio since autumn 2014, indicating the improved appetite for tonnage in the bulker market.

New World Or Old Classics?

While these trends in asset price ratios can indicate the market’s view on the relative value of newbuild and secondhand tonnage, changes in the ratio can sometimes subsequently impact on decision making by investors. When the ratio falls to low levels (the Capesize ratio remained below 70% from Jan-15 to Feb-17), secondhand purchases can often appear more attractive than newbuildings, whilst higher ratios can sometimes eventually stimulate newbuild interest.

Orchestrating Opportunities

Even more starkly, the volatility in price ratios reinforces the opportunities for asset play in the shipping markets. To take an example, a 5 year old Capesize vessel one year ago could have been picked up for about $23.75m. Trading the vessel on a 1-year timecharter (around $8,000/day at the time) and selling the unit as a 6 year old, for say $31.5m, would have generated a return of almost $8m after OPEX (34% of the original outlay).

Still Making Overtures?

So, even after a prolonged downturn, the classic indicators show a shipping market still volatile and open for asset play. Recent shifts, especially in the bulker sector, offer an excellent example. Whilst the outcome is always highly difficult to predict, there still appear to be opportunities for those willing to take a chance, hoping to hit the right note. Have a nice day!

SIW1267:Graph of the Week

The shipping markets have in the main been pretty icy since the onset of the global economic downturn back in 2008, but 2016 has seen a particular blast of cold air rattle through the shipping industry, with few sectors escaping the frosty grasp of the downturn. Asset investment equally appears to have been frozen close to stasis. So, can we measure how cold things have really been?

Lack Of Heat

Generally, our ClarkSea Index provides a helpful way to take the temperature of industry earnings, measuring the performance of the key ‘volume’ market sectors (tankers, bulkers, boxships and gas carriers). Since the start of Q4 2008 it has averaged $11,948/day, compared to $23,666/day between the start of 2000 and the end of Q3 2008. However, earnings aren’t the only thing that can provide ‘heat’ in shipping. Investor appetite for vessel acquisition has often added ‘heat’ to the market in the form of investment in newbuild or secondhand tonnage, even when, as in 2013, earnings remained challenged. To examine this, we once again revisit the quarterly ‘Shipping Heat Index’, which reflects not only vessel earnings but also investment activity, to see how iced up 2016 has really been.

Fresh Heat?

This year, we’ve tweaked the index a little, to include historical newbuild and secondhand asset investment in terms of value, rather than just the pure number of units. This helps us better put the level of ‘Shipping Heat’ in context. In these terms, shipping appears to be as cold (if not more so) as back in early 2009. This year the ‘Heat Index’ has averaged 36, standing at 34 in Q4 2016, which compares to a four-quarter average of 43 between Q4 2008 and Q3 2009.

Feeling The Chill

Partly, of course, this reflects the earnings environment. The ClarkSea Index has averaged $9,329/day in the year to date and is on track for the lowest annual average in 30 years. In August 2016, the index hit $7,073/day, with the major shipping markets all under severe pressure.

All Iced Up

The investment side has seen the temperature drop even further. Newbuilding contracts have numbered just 419 in the first eleven months of 2016, heading for the lowest annual total in over 30 years, and newbuild investment value has totalled just $30.9bn. Weak volume sector markets, as well as a frozen stiff offshore sector, have by far outweighed positivity in some of the niche sectors (50% of the value of newbuild investment this year has been in cruise ships). S&P volumes have been fairly steady, but the reported aggregate value is down at $11.2bn. All this has led to the ‘Shipping Heat Index’ dropping down below its 2009 low-point.

Baby It’s Cold Outside

So, in today’s challenging markets the heat is once again absent from shipping. And, in fact, on taking the temperature, things are just as icy as they were back in 2008-09 when the cold winds of recession blew in. This year has shown that after years out in the cold, it’s pretty hard for things not to get frozen up. Let’s hope for some warmer conditions in 2017.

SIW1250

With seaborne transportation accounting for the vast majority of the world’s international trade, the importance of the shipping industry to the mechanics of the world economy is generally fairly evident. But putting it into context in actual annual value terms, how does the magnitude of the shipping business compare to the size of some of the world’s economies?

Big Traders

There are a number of ways to attempt to put the annual impact of the shipping industry into the context of the wider world economy. One is to examine the value of seaborne trades. Seaborne iron ore trade totalled 1.3bn tonnes in 2015. At an annual average ore price of around $50/t, that equates to a value of $68bn. That’s about the size of the GDP of Kenya. However, that’s dwarfed by seaborne crude oil trade. At 37.4m bpd last year, at an average oil price of around $52/bbl, that’s an annual value of $717bn, almost equivalent to the GDP of Turkey (the world’s 18th largest economy). On the container side, taking port handling as an interesting metric, last year there were an estimated 664m TEU lifts at the world’s box ports. Average handling charges vary significantly, but if they worked out at $150/TEU that’s an economy of just under $100bn, almost the size of the GDP of Angola.

Of course the value of global seaborne trade must be huge. The WTO estimates the value of all global trade at $16.5 trillion, and almost 85% by volume moves by sea. Seaborne trade is probably a little skewed to relatively cheaper goods but even allowing for, say, 50% of the total value, that’s still over $8 trillion, heading towards the size of China’s economy!

Adding The Value

Another way to put shipping’s magnitude into context is to take a look at the value of the assets. Between 2007 and 2015 the average annual level of investment in newbuildings was $127bn. That’s bigger than the GDP of Hungary. Alternatively, taking the value of the fleet today, $904bn, and allowing for, say, another 15 years of trading (the average age by tonnage is around 10 years), would equate to a per annum value of $60bn, still bigger than the economy of Panama.

Call In The Revenue

But perhaps the clearest way to mirror GDP is to check the annual earnings of the vessels, just as GDP measures economic production. In 2016’s challenging market conditions, the ClarkSea Index has averaged $9,733/day (which would total aggregate earnings of $77bn in a full year across the c.22,000 vessels in the main volume sectors), but back in 2007 it averaged over $33,060/day (across over 15,600 vessels). Across a year that’s earnings of $189bn. Almost as big as the economy of shipping’s favourite investor nation, Greece!

A Big Whole

Shipping is just one of a wide range of economic activities on the planet. Sometimes its impact can be hard to put into context. But in terms of ‘economic magnitude’, elements of the shipping industry can be as big as the whole of one of the world’s larger economies, especially in a good year. Have a nice day!

SIW1231 Graph of the Week

Conditions in many sectors of the shipping market are extremely challenging today, but some asset market watchers might look at that as fertile ground for new opportunity. However, different parts of the market cycle pose different questions for shipping’s asset players. What does the historical data tell us about investor behaviour across the cycle in the key shipping sectors?

Where In The Cycle?

The graph illustrates the share of reported secondhand sale and purchase (S&P) activity since 1997 at different ‘price point quartiles’, across the three main sectors and also for total sales activity (see graph explanation for more detail). According to asset investment theory, one might not expect the pattern across the quartiles to be even. At the top end of the price cycle there are limited numbers of ‘optimistic’ buyers willing to make a deal with many keen to sell at rewarding levels, and at the bottom end there are fewer sellers ready to dispose of assets at challenged prices. But how does the pattern look across the shipping sectors?

Life At The Top

Tanker sales reveal a focus at the upper end with a 30% share in the top quartile, and 50% in the middle two quartiles. Less than 20% of sales fell in the bottom quartile. In the bulkcarrier S&P market, transactions have historically been even more concentrated in the upper two quartiles, which accounted for almost 60% of sales in 1997-2014, boosted by record sales numbers in 2007 to many ‘exuberant’ buyers when prices and markets were near to the peak. However, with asset values falling further in 2015, and the market remaining liquid in recent times, in part due to increased pressure from traditional shipping banks, the share of bulker sales in the bottom quartile has risen to 20%, more than in the tanker sector.

Boxships At The Bottom

In the containership sector, the pattern has been more differentiated. Sales in 1997-2014 were much more heavily weighted towards the bottom quartile, with over 30% of transactions occurring there. Often outside of the more traditional ownership structures, it appears that many investors have felt pressure to exit their positions in the prolonged doldrums since the financial crisis. The record number of sales in 2015, at a low point in the price cycle, amplified the trend; by March 2016, 34% of boxship sales since 1997 had taken place in the bottom quartile.

An Optimistic Bunch?

Overall, across all reported vessel sales, only 51% of transactions took place in the mid-quartiles, and almost 30% at the top end compared to 20% at the bottom. What does this mean? Does it make shipping investors an optimistic bunch?

Well, given some of the market ‘spikey-ness’ the top quartile here probably factors in some less than top quartile levels in terms of absolute price range, so that may not be fully true. But still, containership sector aside, it leaves analysts of today’s markets with something to chew over. Even at the darkest of times for some of the sectors, analysis of historical asset play activity could potentially provide some reassuring evidence of more ‘optimistic’ behaviour in the past.

 
SIW1213

Back in early 1999 the price of a 5 year old Panamax bulkcarrier dipped to $13.5m, and ever since analysts have hailed purchase decisions made at that time as some of the most lucrative shipping deals ever seen. Today, with the price back at $13m, perhaps it’s a good time to reflect on how successful investors were back in 1999 and whether there are similar opportunities once again.

What Was The Deal?

The graph shows for each year since 1990 the return that would have been generated by the purchase of a 5 year old Panamax bulkcarrier at the start of the year, the subsequent operation for ten years at the prevailing one year timecharter rate and then the sale of the unit at the end of that period as a 15 year old (for units purchased in 2007 and later, disposal at start 2016 was assumed). At the end of 1999 investors could pick up a 5 year old Panamax bulker for $14m. Trading that vessel at the start year one year timecharter rate for 10 years would have generated estimated earnings of $66.5m (after opex), and then as a 15 year old unit in 2009 the vessel could have been sold for $12.5m. That’s a small loss of $1.5m on the asset but still a total return of $65m, and an impressive internal rate of return (IRR) of 26%.

Playing Snap

A few years later, 5 year old Panamax bulkcarrier purchases did perhaps even better. Buying a 5 year old in 2002, once again at $14m, trading at the timecharter rate and selling as a 15 year old would have generated total returns of $73.2m and an IRR of 41%, whilst the equivalent project in 2003 would have generated $66.1m and an IRR of 44%. These vessels would have generated boom earnings earlier in the project period, subject to a heavier weighting in terms of the internal rate of return calculation.

Not Always A Good Hand

However, not all investors are so lucky. In this example, 5 year old ships purchased since 2008 (and sold this year, so admittedly with less time to hit upon a period of boom earnings) generated negative returns, and those purchased pre-1995 an average IRR of 7%. Buyers in 2008 would have lost a whopping $82.1m on the asset. Nevertheless, there was clearly a golden period; in the years 1998-2006 investors would have achieved an IRR ranging between 20% and 44%.

Unlucky (Or Lucky) 13?

So for those who have had the stomach to buy in at difficult times, there have been more than ample rewards. Today the price of a 5 year old Panamax is back at $13m. Dry bulk fundamentals, particularly on the demand side with the Chinese economy maturing, don’t look helpful at all (see SIW 1207), but with the 5 year old price at almost half that of a newbuild, who really knows what the longer-term opportunity might be?

Fortune favours the brave, but they also say that fools rush in. The outlook seems scary but investors might also have half an eye on their peers who invested at low points in the price cycle in the past. That’s the beauty of volatile and cyclical sectors, but it’s tricky food for thought for shipping investors. Are they willing to party like it’s 1999? Have a nice day.

SIW1210