Dry Bulk Profits Held Back by Too Many Ships

Corrected to reflect anticipated quarterly loss for Eagle Bulk

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The dry bulk shippers are still dealing with overcapacity, leading to low expectations and scant positive catalysts for second-quarter earnings season.

The companies thrived in 2007 and 2008 on massive demand for commodities, driven by China's rapid growth. This led the industry to place orders for additional vessels in anticipation of an extended boom. When the U.S. sank into recession, the resulting slowdown in global demand took a toll on volume and now there are too many ships, weighing on freight rates.

Demand for commodities remains robust (look no further than record steel and coal production in China) but it's nowhere near the 2007-2008 levels, which means that a lot of empty vessels are docked at ports and costing companies a good bit of upkeep.

"This is more than a down quarter, this is more of a down year," said Jeffrey Landsberg, analyst and founder of Commodore Research.

Excel Maritime Carriers ( EXM) reported a loss of $15.7 million, or 19 cents a share, for the second quarter as revenue fell 14% year-over-year to $92 million.

Genco Shipping & Trading ( GNK) reported net income of $10.1 million, or 29 cents a share, for the June period on revenue of $98.5 million, a 6.5% drop. Profits were less than a third of last year's total.

Next up is DryShips ( DRYS), which reports its results on Tuesday, hoping to buck the trend.

Wall Street is looking for earnings of 18 cents a share on revenue of $263.6 million, according to the average estimate of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.

The Athens, Greece-based company announced on July 26 that it plants to acquire the remaining 22% stake in OceanFreight ( OCNF) that it doesn't already own.

"The acquisition of OceanFreight is not a slam dunk, but it improves Dry' charter-free NAV net asset value , even in a weak dry bulk market," Urs Dur, an analyst at Lazard Capital Markets, wrote in a note. But he added that he doesn't expect the deal to move the needle much on earnings. Dur reiterated a buy rating.

Landsberg of Commodore Research said he's paying close attention to developments in Karnataka, India, a state in Southwest India.

The area produces about 45 million tons of iron ore each year, which accounts for roughly 20% in the entire country. Recently, a major corruption scandal took place involving Karnataka's mines, and a resulting probe shut down all companies from exporting iron ore from the region. At the top of the inquiry was Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa.

Indian officials decided to not only ban exports, but discontinue iron ore production in the mines completely. This has forced consumers, such as China, to turn towards Brazil and Australia.

Normally this would not be a problem, but Karnataka is a major port for Panamax vessels, and Brazil and Australia focus more on Capesize vessels. So the Panamax market could suffer from the Karnataka shutdown, Landsberg says.

DryShips competitor Eagle Bulk ( EGLE)is expected to report its quarterly results on Wednesday. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters anticipate a loss of 4 cents a share on $67.4 million in revenue in the June period.

-- Written by Joe Deaux in New York.

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