Monthly Archives: June 2010

Two Improbable Statements Before Breakfast

I ran across two stunning statements this morning in a press release from Contango Oil & Gas Company. The release announced that Contango had revised its oil and gas reserve estimates down by 48.5 Bcfe, to 300 Bcfe.

Regarding the revised estimates, Ken Peak, Contango’s Chairman and CEO, remarked:

“The downward reserve revision is an enormous personal disappointment. I know full well the complexities and numerous uncertainties of reserve estimation, especially early on in a field’s production history. Moreover, the impact of a downward revision is particularly acute when all the Company’s reserves are in essence concentrated in one reservoir. I have full confidence that our reserve estimates were prepared in a careful, conscientious manner and fully consistent with SEC and SPE guidelines. Nonetheless, it is right that the economic pain of this downward revision be shared, therefore, neither myself nor any Contango employee will receive a bonus or stock options for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2010.” (my emphasis added)

Lest the reader miss the economic impact of that statement, be it known that $2.47m of Peak’s $2.64m 2009 compensation derived from options and bonus pay. That’s an extreme pay cut–one of the largest self-inflicted I’ve ever seen (in terms of percentage).

Peak concluded with some commentary on the Gulf oil spill and its impact on Contango:

“The question on many minds these days is the impact of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill on the industry and in our case, Contango specifically. Obviously no one knows, but I will venture an opinion since it goes to the core of our business model and future. I am certain we will face increased regulatory and permitting costs and scrutiny. I believe we can deal with these challenges. I am certain we will face an increased emphasis on safety, and in particular, redundancy in “fail safes”. I welcome these new standards, but believe everything we are currently doing already meets a very high threshold of safety adherence. Hopefully, it is recognized and understood that no human endeavor is ever, and can never be made to be, absolutely, totally and flawlessly 100% fail safe.

“There are two areas that give me great concern. The first is the concept of unlimited environmental liability for a spill, or a limit so high that a debt-free company with an approximate $1.0 billion market cap like Contango is in essence, asked to “bet the Company” every time we drill a well. The move in recent days by some in Congress to retroactively change the law regarding environmental liability does not give me great confidence in our government. Nor do comments about “boots on throats”. The second area that causes great concern is the thought of going to jail for a judgment error or equipment failure – especially if the MMS approved the procedures that were being followed.

“There is at the moment, an enormous amount of understandable emotion and anger together with political populism spewing forth along with the Gulf of Mexico spill, but I believe, and hope, that once the spill is contained, that serious reflection and thought will be brought to bear on how the nation, coastal states in particular, and the livelihood of tens of thousands who depend on a vibrant offshore exploration industry, can beneficially coexist. Contango’s capital expenditure plans, even before this spill, were to “wait out” the upcoming hurricane season, so no adjustment to our capital expenditure plans is required.”

I’ll restrain any tendency to wax philosophical about contemporary political discourse and its relation to a nation’s moral fiber. Indeed pertinent facts still remain hidden from public view. What stands clear–the tone of our conversation today will shape the arc of an industry’s future.

Disclosure: no position

Seanergy Revisited

Over the last few months, many have asked for an update to our previous analysis of Seanergy Maritime. Since January, much has changed. Seanergy did follow through on its planned capital raise, which brought in $30m, but executed at a much worse price (about 1.2 per share) than we expected. A few days later, their plans to acquire a 2009 Capesize vessel were nixed. Though in May, Seanergy announced its new plans to acquire a 51% ownership interest in Maritime Capital Shipping Limited, of Bermuda (“MCS”) for a purchase price of $33m.  Last week Seanergy announced that the MCS deal had closed.  And the following day, they reported Q1 results.

In light of these changed conditions, anglers want to know—would you still “throw it back” at these prices? Frankly, I would.

On first glance, today’s $1.2 per price may appear cheap. With about 60m shares outstanding, and 1m warrants with strikes near these prices, Mr. Market values Seanergy’s equity at ~$73m.

Yet, following the close of the MCS acquisition (i.e., June 3rd), Seanergy’s total assets (including now a fleet of twenty vessels) are approximately $730 million, its total debt approximately $430.8 million, and cash reserves near $84.5 million. These numbers suggest a book value (ex-goodwill) near $4.6 per share. This discount to book has led Seanergy’s management to conclude that today’s price represents “a great entry point.” And according to management’s recent CC remarks, the Restis family (i.e., Seanergy’s majority shareholders) thinks today’s stock price is cheap as well.

Apparently, angling for this bargain need not be a lonely endeavor.

Though in principle I appreciate the support of fellow anglers, my reasons for casting back here are threefold:

1) Seanergy operates in an industry with very weak business franchises (see Buffett’s discussion here). Barriers to entry (or, at least, capacity expansion) are low, with banks today still lending a substantial portion of the cost for new ship construction. Consequently, new supply looks abundant. As of April 2010, the total world drybulk fleet could carry 475.6m Dwt. 2010 should see an additional 109.5m Dwt increase in global drybulk capacity (that’s 23%). And we’ll see 104.3m Dwt more capacity in 2011, with 74.4m Dwt more in 2012 and beyond (according to Clarkson Research Services). As Seanergy plainly acknowledges, the current dry bulk order book is 60% of the world fleet, and most of this will come online in the next 2.5 years. Though I won’t make any predictions about dry bulk rates for 2011, it’s hard for me to see the global shipping trade increasing at a rate sufficient to soak up this oncoming supply.

2) On a liquidation basis, Seanergy’s (now twenty) ships are likely worth less than their current $430m in total debt, and after accounting for minority interests. Run your own back-of-the-envelope calculations on their aging fleet, but recent amendments to their outstanding credit agreement with Marfin Bank of Greece show that their leash is tethered.

3) Even though their current market cap to EBITDA ratio may appear cheap, the metric ignores their significant debt load, and assumes that today’s corporate debt levels will be available in perpetuity. Better always, in my lights, to value businesses based on their enterprise value to EBITDA (or better yet, enterprise value to “owner earnings”).

Let’s say Seanergy earns 48m-60m EBITDA for 2010. If you bought the whole company at today’s market price of ~$1.2 per share, you’d be paying $72m for the equity (given 60m shares out), taking on the $430m in debt, and getting $85m in cash (as of 6/3/10). Call it $417m in enterprise value. For me, that’s not an attractive price to buy the business as a whole, particularly in an industry where depreciation is real and significant industry headwinds loom ahead.

Disclosure: no position