NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Last September, TheStreet sat down with General Maritime (GMR) Chief Financial Officer Jeff Pribor at his company's office in Midtown Manhattan, to discuss the very issues that have come home to roost for the oil tanker operator on Thursday, with its stock tanking by nearly 30%.
Namely, General Maritime, known to most by the foreshortened "Genmar," took a huge gamble last June when it acquired seven supertankers for $620 million -- at the time, a price higher than the company's market cap. Having levered up to acquire the ships, the deal looked like the equivalent of buying a call option on the future appreciation of crude tanker rates.
As it happens, rates have been terrible for the class of ship Genmar acquired -- Very Large Crude Carriers -- and the company's stock has steadily declined as investors have bailed. The problems culminated after the closing bell Wednesday, when Genmar announced that it was meeting with its bankers in a bid to restructure its debt. It was also forced to delay the filing of its 10-K annual report.Last September, these very problems were presciently discussed by TheStreet and Pribor in their candid conversation in New York. Because the content of much of that Q&A bears directly on the events of the last day, we present here the most relevant passages from that interview: TheStreet: The company's share price has fallen sharply, and some investors have criticized the company for not buying back stock. What's your response to those concerns? Jeff Pribor: There is a place for buying back stock. It's in the toolkit of every company. But in shipping, you have to be really sensitive to share price relative to NAV. That's one of the factors. You also have to look at the overall leverage. I'm not sure it makes sense to use our cash right now to begin a big buyback program. I wouldn't say that's the most likely near-term course of action for us. TheStreet: Tell me more about share price relative to NAV and how that works in you calculations when it comes to buybacks. Pribor: Typically, when shares are trading above NAV, you'd rather buy real ships than buying your shares. So share buybacks tend to happen more when share prices are at fairly significant discount to NAV.