Thursday, July 16, 2009


Between a rock and a hard place

Between a rock and a hard place. We have a NEUTRAL rating on the shipping trust sector, which faces falling asset values and counterparty concerns driven by a weak shipping market. These broader issues are compounded for Rickmers Maritime (RMT) because of its high leverage (2.2x debt-to-equity as of 31-March) and sizeable contracted acquisitions that were committed to during the better days. To recap, our concerns include: 1) loan-to-value covenants on existing loans; 2) loan-to-value requirements that affect RMT's ability to draw down committed loan facilities for the US$207m Hanjin acquisitions due in 2H09; 3) a need to repay up to US$154m in loans next year (our estimate); 4) no arranged financing for the US$711.6m in contracted acquisitions due next year; and 5) the likely redelivery of a vessel in February 2010 that could impact cash flows.

2Q DPU and its implications. At 2Q results, our focus will be on a possible update on ongoing negotiations for waivers on loan-to-value covenants; as well as the distribution amount declared for the quarter. RMT, which does not provide distribution guidance, paid out 2.14 US cents per unit in 1Q09. Coincidentally, this was the floor amount mandated under a subordination structure that expired 01 Apr. We think the 2Q DPU decision may be driven by conflicting forces: it may make sense to cut or freeze distributions entirely to save cash to fund obligations and to appease lenders. But the cash saved is small relative to what is needed. Cutting distributions could also hurt any potential equity-raising efforts, rather than help.

Don't expect quick resolutions. Aside from the two aforementioned data points, we would be genuinely (positively) surprised if RMT is able to provide clarity on the larger issues. Our concern is that RMT is already unsustainably geared as it is; and the committed acquisitions leverage up the risk. Additionally, there is no clear roadmap of what the best solution is in this case: ideally the 2010 Maersk vessels worth US$711.6m would just "disappear" - but that may not be possible. And if an equity issue is required, unitholders will have to ask themselves if they want to fund purchases fixed at boom-time prices. With the high level of risk and no clear path out of the woods, we think it is prudent to maintain our SELL call. The recent price increase impacts the equity issue assumptions underlying our valuation. Our fair value estimate consequently increases to S$0.39 from S$0.29 previously.



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