SOURCE: Capital Link, Inc.

Capital Link, Inc.

August 30, 2010 14:59 ET

Dale Ploughman, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Seanergy Maritime Holdings Corp. (NASDAQ: SHIP, SHIPW) Discusses Seanergy and the Dry Cargo Sector

Interview With Barry Parker of BDP1 Connect

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwire - August 30, 2010) -  Dale Ploughman, the Chairman and CEO of Seanergy Maritime Holdings Corp. (NASDAQ: SHIP) (NASDAQ: SHIPW), was interviewed by Barry D. Parker of BDP1 Connect, contributor to Capital Link Shipping. The interview focused on the development of Seanergy and on the dry cargo sector. Please find below the interview in its entirety. A PDF copy of the interview can also be accessed on www.CapitalLinkShipping.com or by clicking on the link below http://shipping.capitallink.com/files/Interviews/2010/Barry_Parker_Interviews_Dale_Ploughman.pdf

Barry Parker: Since Seanergy commenced operations on August 28th 2008, the company has grown at a significant pace. You've been very clear about your intentions of being amongst the market leaders, and you've followed through in quite an aggressive manner. Can you go through some of the highlights of what you've been able to accomplish in just two years as an operating company?

Dale Ploughman: Since the time of completion of our business combination in August 2008, we have embarked on a growth strategy seeking prudent acquisitions that would enhance shareholder value for the longer term without sacrificing the health of our balance sheet. As you mentioned, our ultimate goal is to be among the industry leaders both in terms of the size of our fleet and the quality of our shipping operations.

Just to reiterate, since August 28, 2010 we have grown our controlled fleet from 6 dry bulk carriers to 20. Through these acquisitions we optimized our fleet profile, as we now operate in all vessel classes of the dry bulk sector and we have achieved a charter portfolio that generates sizeable and stable cash flows with significant upside potential.

The expansion I described happened in two steps. The first one took place in August 2009. In just one year after completing the transition from a blank check company to an operating entity, we almost doubled the size of our fleet from 6 to 11 vessels with the acquisition of a controlling interest in Bulk Energy Transport, which was comprised of five drybulk carriers, four Capesizes and one Panamax vessel.

Then in May of this year, with the gross proceeds of an equity offering we completed in February 2010, we acquired a 51% ownership interest in Maritime Capital Shipping Limited, which has a fleet of 9 handysize vessels thus we expanded our controlled fleet from 11 to 20 vessels.

Following up on our intentions to acquire the minority stake in MCS and BET we announced last week that we have entered into letters of intent for the acquisition of the remaining ownership percentages in each of BET and MCS, thereby incorporating 100% the companies into Seanergy. The acquisitions are expected to close by September 15, 2010 by the MCS and BET Sellers and Seanergy.

So, in the short period of less than two years as a publicly traded company, we have more than tripled our controlled fleet from 6-20 vessels, quadrupled our deadweight tonnage and enhanced our fleet's operational versatility without sacrificing the strength of our balance sheet. 

Barry Parker: You have a track record of achieving fleet growth at a reasonable price through these accretive acquisitions which preserve shareholder value. However, this has not yet been reflected in the market value of Seanergy's shares, which have been stagnant since the January equity offering. What are your comments on this, and specifically, what do you believe to be the reasons behind the lack of momentum?

Dale Ploughman: Let me start by saying that I believe Seanergy is an extremely attractive buying opportunity for value oriented investors given our growth track record, the quality of our operations and the prospects of our company.

The reality is that despite our large industry footprint and growth ambitions, for the moment we are still a small cap company and that has limited the investor universe that follows our company.

In addition, until recently, there was no research coverage on Seanergy, and to some extent this contributed to our lower visibility. But on August 23, 2010, Rodman & Renshaw initiated research coverage on our Company and we expect another house to initiate coverage in the near future as well. This will help increase our profile in the investment community.

Also, the fact that we owned controlling interests in two entities, BET and MCS Shipping, made our company appear more complex than it really was. We answered this concern by entering into letters of intent to acquire the remaining ownership in both BET and MCS. This deal was agreed at a premium of 14% on the share price based on the closing price of $0.92 on August 25th and generates several benefits to our Company. It simplifies our balance sheet and ownership structure, expands our revenue and profit generation capacity and is accretive to earnings per share. Projected EBITDA post acquisition is $78.8 million in 2011. By issuing new shares at a premium, we avoided dilution and the significant cost usually associated with capital raising and indicates the sellers confidence in the future prospects of Seanergy. Details of this transaction can be found on our website www. seanergymaritime.com and navigating to the August 27, 2010 press release.

There are two schools of thought on the size of the principal shareholders stake in the company and some of the related party interactions. Some applaud the size of the stake and the interactions and there are others that don't. The Restis family remains a controlling shareholder their stake in the company grew due to the process of moving from a blank check company to a fully operating company. However the size of their stake was not the original intention but came about due to their wish to see Seanergy succeed, if you look at the short history of the company you will note that when Seanergy has used its paper to acquire minority interests or take out notes due, that the transaction has been very accretive to Seanergy and ALL its shareholders despite the fact that the Restis Family's stake in the company has grown. They have made no secret of the fact that they would not mind seeing their stake being diluted but this should be done by expansion rather than selling down. Their percentage ownership has decreased following the February equity offering, which by the way increased our free float and significantly improved the liquidity of our shares. Our average daily volume for the last three months is about 230,000 shares, which is very good given our size and compares very favorably to other sector companies.

Barry Parker: Why is the relationship with the Restis family an advantage to Seanergy?

Dale Ploughman: The Restis family is one of the powerhouses in global shipping. The Group controls a fleet in excess of 100 vessels in most market segments. So, very simply, the association with such a group gives us unique competitive advantages both on the operating and the commercial side. On the operating side, we benefit from significant economies of scale and on the commercial side we benefit from access to an extensive network of charterers and other end users. We should also mention access to long-established banking relationships and deal flow in the sales and purchase markets that would not be easily available to a smaller company of our size. However I do understand that the non affiliated shareholder may question this, so we have put in place a method of bench marking by having the technical management carried out by three separate companies one of which is affiliated to the Restis Family and the commercial brokerage is split between in house and Safbulk a Restis affiliated company, by doing this not only are we able to bench mark we are able to tap a broader base of skills and economies scale

To make the point, whereas most shipping companies acquire single vessels, we have been able to acquire en bloc entire fleets, Five vessels the first time and nine vessels the second time. Another advantage is that here is a family that really understands shipping, has a real desire to see Seanergy succeed and is there to support the company for the benefit of all shareholders, as was evidenced in signing of the LOI last week.

Barry Parker: Where do you see the market today in terms of asset values? Currently, what opportunities have you seen to grow the fleet, and will you continue to seek multiple vessel acquisitions as opposed to single vessels?

Dale Ploughman: A stronger freight rate environment has led to firmer asset values, which however remain at the lower side of their historical levels. For Seanergy, we will always continue to look for the right opportunities to expand further, but we are not in a rush. We completed our first priority which was to buy out the minority stakes in BET and MCS Shipping which as I mentioned simplifies our balance sheet and shareholding structure. Moving forward, we will look to see how we can further enhance shareholder value, in the matter of fleet expansion my preference is to absorb fleets rather than individual ships. But having said this we will not over look any innovative and accretive single ship acquisitions.

Barry Parker: What is your opinion on the supply side, specifically with regards to the order book? Some sources indicate that the current delivery schedule is higher than most had previously expected. What do you see is the likely impact on demand following Russia's ban on wheat exports? Is this good or bad for dry bulk shipping?

Dale Ploughman: As of July 2010 the dry bulk order book stands at 60% of the global fleet, well below the peak of 80% in the second half of 2008. For Capesizes, the orderbook is currently at roughly 81% of the existing fleet, while Panamaxes are around 58%. Dry bulk carriers have increased by about 400 vessels, which is approximately 37 million DWT, according to Clarksons. Financing restrictions as well as high order prices continue to create uncertainty for the orderbook. In addition, new orders for 417 bulk carriers for delivery from 2012 onwards have been accepted. This will lead to the eventual return of port congestion becoming a growing factor with a record number of vessels at anchor around the world, and as the forward forecast for iron ore is that exports will grow by 104% over the next 5 years and coal exports will grow by 59% over the next 5 years we can expect a robust demand curve over the medium term. Which combined with the myriad of other factors will lead to a balance in the supply and demand curves and there by producing an acceptable rate environment. Although in my opinion we will on the aggregate have a rate environment that is acceptable we will have a fair amount of volatility, due to the uncertainty of the order book and the fact that people are still ordering today, rather than take advantage of re-sales or wait to see what the outcome will be once the miners and steel mills vertical integrated schemes are in place and operating. 

In the short term Russia's ban on wheat exports has and will be a boon to the smaller size ships that is to say Panamax and down, as Russian grain exports are usually a staple supply for many countries and their absence from the export market will necessitate grain being sought from further afield, creating additional ton miles and thus greater demand for tonnage. 

Barry Parker: What do you plan to do about the Seanergy warrants?

Dale Ploughman: These are set to expire in September 2011. One option is to let them expire, the other is to lower their exercise price so that they can be utilized as a source of capital for Seanergy. We are currently evaluating several alternatives regarding the warrants but we have not yet reached any decision.

Barry Parker: Your fleet has one of the highest time charter coverage ratios in the sector, protecting you against current market volatility. What is your view of the market for the remainder of 2010 and what are your plans for the vessels that will come off charter in 2010 and 2011?

Dale Ploughman: As of today, we have secured 95% of our operating days for 2010, 64% for 2011, 30% for 2012 and 19% for 2013 under period employment. Overall, our current charter portfolio enables us to enjoy significant cash flow stability and visibility coupled with upside potential through the profit sharing arrangements on three of our vessels and the portion of our fleet that is gradually opening for rechartering in improved market conditions. We will continue to look for term employment to ensure good forward visibility. We are still a small company of only 20 ships and as such too small to play the spot market without causing our investors anxiety and uncertainty something I wish to avoid. 

Just to demonstrate the leverage we can have with improving market conditions, we recently announced the fixing of one of our Panamax vessels, the 1994 built M/V Hamburg, for two years at a base rate of $21,500 per day and a ceiling of $25,500 per day, with a 50% profit sharing arrangement to apply to any amount in excess of the ceiling less a 5% brokerage commission. The spread between floor and ceiling will accrue 100% to Seanergy. The base used for the calculation of the rate will be the Baltic Panamax 4TC route. This on the basis of the floor is an increase in the rate year on year of 39%.

Regarding the overall market, drybulk shipping is, and will remain a vital link to the global economy and we are in this business for the long term. Weaker markets, as those we experienced recently, create opportunities that stronger companies like ours can take advantage of and generate shareholder value for the longer term. 

The macroeconomic environment remains very favorable for drybulk shipping and we expect further sustained increases in the shipment of drybulk commodities.

Thank you, Dale. It's always a pleasure to talk to you, and I look forward to monitoring your progress in the coming months.

About Barry Parker:

Barry Parker is a financial writer and analyst. His articles appear in a number of prominent maritime periodicals including Fairplay, Seatrade, Lloyds Shipping Economist and James Transport Finance and Capital Link Shipping.

Contact Information

  • For more information on Seanergy, please contact:
    Nicolas Bornozis
    Capital Link, Inc.
    Tel. 212-661-7566
    E-mail: seanergy@capitallink.com