Diana Shipping Profit Up, but Tough Times Loom

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ATHENS ( TheStreet) -- The dry-bulk ocean-freight line Diana Shipping ( DSX) reported a rise in profit from a year ago, but the company offered little in the way of outlook as the dry bulk industry faces one of its worst markets in years.

Diana, well-regarded on Wall Street for its conservative strategy, reported earnings of $32.3 million, or 40 cents a share. That's up 17% from a year ago, when it earned $27.6 million, or 34 cents a share.

Revenue came to nearly $73 million, up 24.5% from a year ago. The company had two additional ships in its fleet in the fourth quarter, which explains the top-line increase. Also, Diana built a containership fleet during 2010, which also lifted the revenue figure year-over-year. That fleet was spun off into a new publicly traded entity, Diana Containerships ( DCIX), in January.

Diana missed expectations on the bottom line but beat on the top. According to a survey of analysts by Thompson Reuters, Wall Street was expecting Diana to earn 41 cents a share on revenue of $69 million.

The results came before dry-bulk shipping rates on the spot market collapsed. Most of Diana's ships are locked into long-term contracts, though charters for two of the company's Capesize vessels are set to expire between now and July.

Greg Lewis, the shipping stock analyst at Credit Suisse, cut his 2011 profit estimate to $1.20 from $1.37. Lewis is on the bearish side. On average, analysts covering Diana are looking for the company to earn $1.43 in 2011.

Still, Lewis praised Diana's strategy, saying in a note to clients Tuesday morning that the company would use the downtrodden market for dry bulk ships to expand its fleet by buying up vessels.

Diana executives have been some of the more outspoken industry doomsdayers, having warned for almost two years about a severe downcycle in the shipping market caused by a glut of newly delivered ships.

-- Written by Scott Eden in New York

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