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Excel Maritime Stock Slides

In the year-ago equivalent period, Excel posted net income of $81.8 million on revenue of $102.6 million.

The company said that 56% of its fleet was locked into long-term charters for 2011 -- an important data point since it expresses just how much a dry bulk freight line is exposed to the spot market, which has declined sharply since the end of 2010.

Excel management will likely strive to pull more of its ships from the spot market and fix them into long-term charter contracts, according to analyst Omar Nokta, of Dahlman Rose, in a note to clients Tuesday morning.

Most of Excel's fleet is made up of Panamax-size ships, according to some analyst estimates. The glut hasn't damaged rates for those vessels quite as much as Capesize ships, the largest dry-bulk freighters in the world. Also, of Excel's seven Capesize vessels, all but one are fixed under long-term contracts, earning between $25,000 and $48,000 a day. None of those ships will see their charter contracts expire this year.

Excel just took delivery of a new Capesize ship in January, but had a charter agreement covering its services already in place. The daily rate is $28,000 a day, Excel said, well above the going spot-market fee. According to the Baltic Exchange, a London-based ship broker that tracks rates, Capesize vessels continued to weaken, fetching about $4,500 a day on average on the spot market as of Monday, down nearly 30% from a week ago. On Tuesday, the figure inched up to about $4,600.

The going rate for a Panamax vessel was about $14,600 a day, according to the Baltic Exchange. That's down about 8% from a week ago.

In his research note, Dahlman Rose analyst Nokta worried that weak shipping rates might put Excel's loan convenants in danger. He noted that Excel has made moves to sell ships and pay down its debt -- leverage the company had taken on in 2008 to acquire a fleet of ships.

Nokta maintained his hold rating on the stock "due to uncertainties that lie ahead for dry bulk and Excel."
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