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Dry bulk shipping weekly analysis (Part 10: Ship prices)

Xun Yao Chen, Industrials Analyst

Continued from Part 9

Why should you watch ship purchase prices?

Purchase prices for ships are often good indicators of financial health in the shipping industry. When shipping demand grows more than the supply of ships, shipping companies place additional orders, which drives up purchase prices. Plus, when firms are able to charge higher prices for transporting goods across the ocean, profitability rises, and so does the value of ships.

(Read more: Dry bulk capacity growth slows further, encouraging sign for later half of 2013)

Panamax stabilizing, Handymax/Supramax rising

During June, the average vessel prices for 15-year-old Panamax, Handymax/Supramax, and Handysize ships rose to a nine-month high.

  • Panamax: $9.5 million to $10.0 million (5.3% increase since May)
  • Handymax/Supramax: $9.5 million to $10.0 million (5.3% increase since May)
  • Handysize: $13.5 million to $14.5 million (7.4% increase since May)

Vessel prices (values) have been rising since the beginning of the year, as several companies, such as Diana Shipping Inc. (DSX), have begun taking advantage of depressed price levels to purchase more ships in anticipation of a recovery in shipping rates in the near future.

(Read more: Supramax price rises first time since mid 2010, signs of shipping recovery)

Fifteen-year-old vessel prices mirror shipping rates

Ship prices (values) peaked in mid-2010, as supply growth started to outpace demand growth, driven by deliveries of a record number of ship orders placed before the financial crisis and lower year-over-year growth in dry bulk trade. As more fleets went unused, competition grew among firms, which pressured shipping rates and the overall profitability of shipping firms. Because companies can sell and purchase 15-year-old ships in the market right away—unlike new builds, which can take up to two years to construct—price movements in 15-year-old ships reflect nearer-term fundamentals than new build prices.

Analysts expect shipping rates to rise from their current depressed level

The recent rise in vessel price is another positive indicator of future supply and demand balance, which analysts expect to tighten. This would be positive for dry bulk companies such as DryShips Inc. (DRYS), Diana Shipping Inc. (DSX), Eagle Bulk Shipping Inc. (EGLE), Safe Bulkers Inc. (SB), and Navios Maritime Partnerships LP (NMM) over the medium to long term, because it suggests shipping rates will rise. Since several dry bulk companies have used ships as collateral to fund additional ship purchases in the past, higher ship values will also reduce the risk of violating loan covenants. 1

Learn more about the key performance indicators of the dry bulk shipping industry

(Read more: Why the Baltic Dry Index has decoupled from the Chinese market)

Continue to Part 11: New build prices, or go back to Part 1 to see the list of indicators.

  1. Loan covenants are activities that borrowers have agreed to carry out or not to carry out as part of the condition of receiving the loan. A violation of the loan (such as when the underlying value of a ship used to borrow more funds falls below a certain level) may give the creditor the right to ask for an early termination of a loan, which can lead to some serious financial problems for the borrower.

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