StealthGas Inc. (GASS)

Q1 2010 Earnings Call Transcript

May 12, 2010 11:00 am ET

Executives

Andrew Simmons – CFO

Harry Vafias – President and CEO

Analysts

Natasha Boyden – Cantor Fitzgerald

Daniel Burke – Clarkson Johnson Rice

David Wiser [ph] – Mentor Partners [ph]

Presentation

Operator

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the StealthGas Inc. first quarter 2010 results conference call. For your information, today's conference is been recorded. At this time, I would like to turn the conference over to Mr. Harry Vafias, President and Chief Executive Officer. Please go ahead, sir.

Harry Vafias

Thank you and good morning, everyone. Welcome to our conference call and web cast to discuss the results for the first quarter ended March 31st. I'm Harry Vafias, CEO of StealthGas, and I'd like to remind you please that we'll be discussing forward-looking statements in today's conference call and presentation. Regarding the Safe Harbor language, I would like to refer you to slide number one of this presentation as well as to our press release on our first quarter 2010 results. With me today is Andrew Simmons, our CFO. And if you need further info on the conference call or the presentation, please contact Andrew or myself.

Let us begin from slide number two, we would like to reiterate our stated business strategy, and later I would like to discuss the outlook for 2010 and beyond. Our primary objective is to continue to run a highly efficient and modern fleet on secure employment contracts with first-class charters that serve a very specific niche market. Our core LPG fleet has no correlation whatsoever to most of our shipping sectors, so it remains a surprise to us that our stock seems to continue to trade in tandem with the share movements of companies with vessels trading sectors completely unrelated to our core LPG market.

During the first quarter of 2010, we completed the sale of two of the five older LPG carriers in our fleet that we have contracted to sell by May of this year. I'm pleased to say that the majority of these vessels have been (inaudible) at prices very close to the vessel’s book values. These sales have not only boosted our liquidity and reduced our level of debt, but they have also in my view made our fleet more efficient in that several of these vessels will have operated for this year at least in what continues to be a relatively soft spot market.

Therefore removing them from the fleet will overtime, I believe improve the overall performance of the company and keep the average age of our fleet significantly below those of our competitors. We have no further scheduled deliveries of ships until the first quarter of ’11, and as we have previously highlighted, about $11 million of states' payments due during 2010, we expect to meet comfortably from our internally generated cash flows.

After taking into consideration the total fleet of 40 ships at the end of the first quarter 2010, our net debt to capitalization ratio stood at 43%, down from 46% in the prior quarter, which coupled with our employment charter profile and overall quality of our charters, should have to continue to underpin the underlying financial stability and strength of the company.

Our third objective has been to secure and maintain a visible revenue stream, with stable and predictable cash flows enabling us to continue to pursue a prudent growth strategy in the LPG segment or in other sectors. At the moment fixed employments for our fleet for 2010 stands at 60% of available days. We have about 24% already covered for next year. As we’ve announced during the first quarter last week, we have secured some attractive field of business for our fleet recently, all while we would like really to have more vessels fixed at attractive rates.

Also, as we are focusing on the (inaudible) we tightened in the latter part of this year, we would prefer to keep some of our vessels in the spot market, so we can take advantage of the improved period rates, which we might realize.

As you would have seen from our results for Q1, our time charter equivalent was $7,065 per vessel per day, compared to $7,344 a day in the corresponding quarter last year, which represents a decline of only 3.9%, but an improvement over Q4 ’09 when the daily TCE was $6, 727 per day per vessel. While this improvement was both welcome and encouraging, we continue to face challenges in the near term from the trading standpoint as we have a high number of vessels trading in the spot market that was the case, particularly between 2005 and 2008. We also have again included an adjusted time charter equivalent on a blended basis in our slide presentation for both the gas carriers and the product tankers, as none of our vessels were on bareboat charter.

This not only gives you more realistic figure in terms of the average time charter equivalent achieved in their fleet, but we have also adjusted the vessel operating expenses line later in the presentation as we (inaudible) to be responsible for the operating expenses of all the vessels in our fleet.

On this basis, the time charter equivalent was close to $8,000 in Q1 2010, against $8,821 at the same time last year, a reduction of $852 a day or 9.4%, again however there was an improvement over Q4 of ’09, where the equivalent rate stood at $7,712 per vessel per day, an increase of $277 per vessel per day or 3.6%.

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