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Seaspan Ready for the Long Haul

Please excuse me if I describe the past week as a stormy sea, because that is not just a tired cliche for the marine shipping stocks. Many freight-toting companies with low valuations and great prospects have had the wind knocked out of them as momentum traders dove for the exit hatch.

Among the heavily discounted stocks this week that you may wish to consider is the fast-growing containership powerhouse Seaspan (SSW - Get Report), which reported great earnings two weeks ago and has suffered no end of abuse ever since. Unless I'm really missing something, investors whose horizon stretches beyond their noses should start positions around here.

Seaspan is en route to become one of the largest owners of container ships in the world. It has a very modern fleet now of 29 ships in operation, 34 more on order and coming soon, and it plans to have at least 100 in five years.

In the past quarter it hit some impressive milestones, completing a highly accretive $1.5 billion acquisition of eight new ships that are the largest available, and at the same time nailing down 10-year leases for all of them with one of the world's largest carriers (which was not named, but quite possibly the Chinese-owned Cosco).

The company also increased every important metric -- total contracted revenue, earnings and assets -- at around 35% annualized in the quarter. Just to give you an idea of where this is going, earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization is expected to grow by more than threefold to $500 million by 2011 from $145 million.

Financing Locked Down

To prepare itself for that kind of growth, Seaspan took on $1.5 billion in debt and equity financing during the quarter at attractive terms, even as the famed credit crunch was raging. That's a good measure of the company's financial strength and credibility. And at the same time, it announced a 6.4% dividend increase.
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