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Edited Transcript of ASC earnings conference call or presentation 7-Nov-18 3:00pm GMT

Q3 2018 Ardmore Shipping Corp Earnings Call

Pembroke Nov 21, 2018 (Thomson StreetEvents) -- Edited Transcript of Ardmore Shipping Corp earnings conference call or presentation Wednesday, November 7, 2018 at 3:00:00pm GMT

TEXT version of Transcript

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Corporate Participants

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* Anthony Gurnee

Ardmore Shipping Corporation - Founder, President, CEO & Director

* Paul Tivnan

Ardmore Shipping Corporation - Senior VP, CFO, Treasurer & Secretary

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Conference Call Participants

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* Benjamin Joel Nolan

Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Incorporated, Research Division - MD

* Fotis Giannakoulis

Morgan Stanley, Research Division - VP, Research

* Gregory Adrian Wasikowski

Wells Fargo Securities, LLC, Research Division - Associate Analyst

* Jonathan B. Chappell

Evercore ISI Institutional Equities, Research Division - Senior MD

* Magnus Sven Fyhr

Seaport Global Securities LLC, Research Division - MD & Senior Shipping Analyst

* Randall Giveans

Jefferies LLC, Research Division - Equity Analyst

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Presentation

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Operator [1]

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Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Ardmore Shipping's Third Quarter 2018 Earnings Conference Call. Today's call is being recorded, and an audio webcast and presentation are available in the Investor Relations section of the company's website, ardmoreshipping.com. Please, note for those on the webcast, due to a technical issue, you may need to refresh your browser in order to see all the presentation. The presentation is also available as a download in the Materials tab of the website and on the Ardmore website. (Operator Instructions) A replay of the conference call will be accessible anytime during the next week by dialing (877) 344-7529 or area code (412) 317-0088 and entering passcode 10125856.

At this time, I will turn the call over to Mr. Anthony Gurnee, Chief Executive Officer of Ardmore Shipping. Mr. Gurnee, the floor is yours, sir.

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Anthony Gurnee, Ardmore Shipping Corporation - Founder, President, CEO & Director [2]

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Thank you, Mike. So good morning, everyone, and welcome to Ardmore Shipping's Third Quarter Earnings Call. First, let me ask our CFO, Paul Tivnan, to describe the format for the call and discuss forward-looking statements.

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Paul Tivnan, Ardmore Shipping Corporation - Senior VP, CFO, Treasurer & Secretary [3]

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Thanks, Tony, and welcome everyone. Before we begin our conference call, I would like to direct all the participants to our website at ardmoreshipping.com, where you'll find a link to this morning's third quarter 2018 earnings release and presentation.

Tony and I will take about 15 minutes to go through the presentation and then open up the call to questions.

Turning to Slide 2, please allow me to remind you that our discussion today contains forward-looking statements. Actual results may differ materially from the results projected from those forward-looking statements, and additional information concerning factors that could cause the actual results to differ materially from those in the forward-looking statements is contained in the third quarter 2018 earnings release, which is available on our website.

And now I will turn the call back over to Tony.

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Anthony Gurnee, Ardmore Shipping Corporation - Founder, President, CEO & Director [4]

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Thanks, Paul. The call today will follow our usual format. First, we will discuss our performance and recent activity followed by a market review with a focus on IMO 2020, after which, Paul will provide a fleet update and review our financial results. And then we'll conclude the presentation and open up the call for questions.

So turning first to Slide 5, on our performance and recent activity. We're reporting EBITDA of $3.9 million and a net loss of $12.2 million or $0.37 a share for the third quarter, reflecting continued weakness in product tanker rates, particularly early in the third quarter.

Our MRs earned $10,300 per day in the third quarter and have earned $11,450 year-to-date. During the third quarter, MR spot rates were adversely impacted by lower cargo volumes in the Atlantic Basin with one-off events occurring late in the second quarter and continuing into the third quarter and some encroachment of larger tankers into MR trades, which looks now to be easing with the improvement in crude tanker rates. MR rates have recovered from summer lows and appear to be on an upward trajectory into the winter months.

Our fleet is performing well, with operating expenses and overhead below budget year-to-date. Our cash at quarter-end was $53 million on a pro forma basis, reflecting the refinancing of 4 vessels on favorable terms in October.

And looking ahead, supply-demand fundamentals remain very positive, while at the same time, IMO 2020 is expected to create upside for the entire tanker market, and product tankers in particular, from mid-2019.

Turning to Slide 6 for a look at our fleet profile. This is unchanged since our last earnings call, but for those not familiar with Ardmore, this is a modern, fuel-efficient fleet, all built in top-tier yards in Korea and Japan and with significant earnings power in a rising market.

Now we'll go to Slide 8, on MR supply-demand fundamentals. As is shown in the graph on the upper right, MR tonne-mile demand is continuing to grow at about 4% per annum. This is underpinned by strong oil consumption growth, matched by refinery capacity additions in trading oriented locations.

And it's also important to highlight that the crude and refined products destocking process that had persisted from 2016 to mid-2018 and weighed heavily on tanker rates is now a thing of the past.

Meanwhile, looking to supply, as you can see on the graph in the lower right, the MR order book remains at all-time lows at just 4.7% of the existing fleet. Only 50 MRs are expected to deliver this year, matched by an almost equal number being scrapped, resulting in roughly 0 net fleet growth for 2018. Looking ahead, we expect 1% or less net fleet growth in 2019.

These strong supply-demand fundamentals are expected to provide a solid foundation for the MR market as we go into a period of what we expect will be very positive oil market dynamics, creating incremental tanker demand.

Turning to Slide 9 for an update on the tanker market in terms of activity and trends. Our MR fleet averaged $10,300 per day for the quarter, while our chemical tankers averaged $10,100 per day. This relatively strong performance versus the market was achieved with less than optimal fleet deployment, which was, and is currently, weighted toward the Atlantic Basin. This proved to be a headwind in the third quarter, as the East was much stronger, but has now shifted on our favor, as we will discuss further on.

In terms of recent market activity, you'll see in the graph to the upper right that the Atlantic Basin hit record low rates in late summer, driven by unrelated onetime events in the key consumer regions of Mexico and Brazil.

Globally, in other words, taking into account markets in the East, not just the Atlantic, MR rates dropped in September. Atlantic Basin trading activity has returned to more normal levels, and winter market conditions are starting to emerge there.

Meanwhile, as you can see to the lower right, a very strong and continuing rebound in tanker and crude tanker rates is leading a general tanker market recovery and is also resulting in the easing of the encroachment of larger ships on product trades, with LR2s expected to migrate to dirty trading, which, actually, 9 have done so far.

Looking ahead, we believe that the strong crude tanker rates are leading a general tanker market recovery. We also believe that there may be more momentum in MR rates than is generally recognized, given the very strong underlying supply-demand fundamentals. And as we'll discuss next, the impact of IMO 2020 on oil market dynamics, and thus on tanker demand, is expected to be felt beginning in mid-2019.

On Slide 9, we take a look -- sorry, on Slide 10, we take a look at the changes that IMO 2020 is expected to bring. Let me take a moment to start -- at the start here to explain the fuel type terminology. High sulfur fuel oil, or HSFO, is the type currently used worldwide and contains 3.5% sulfur. Marine gas oil, or MGO, is essentially the spec of diesel that ships use and contains 0.1% sulfur. Essentially, it's diesel, sometimes more generally called middle distillate. And very low sulfur fuel oil, or VLSFO, is the new IMO-compliant substitute for high sulfur fuel oil, containing only 0.5% sulfur.

Both marine gas oil and very low sulfur fuel oil will be IMO-2020 compliant. Implementation is now fixed for January 1, 2020, with the switchover resulting in a significant increase in demand for compliant fuels. As shown in the graph on the upper right, the global market for high sulfur fuel oil is currently 3.5 to 4 million barrels a day, and it's expected that about 2 million barrels a day will be replaced by either gas oil or yet to be created very low sulfur fuel oil blends of various types.

This is a major change, and preparations for compliance are well underway in both the oil and shipping industries. In particular, refineries will need to increase output and ship their product slate away from fuel oil and toward middle distillate as well as find ways to make the new very low sulfur fuel oil blends. Bunker providers will need to prepare their logistics chain, including storage and barging, by cleaning tanks and managing down their inventories of high sulfur fuel. And ship owners are either preparing to use the compliant fuels or, on a more limited basis, installing scrubbers to enable continued burning of high sulfur fuel, at least for a period of time.

The transition is not going to happen with a flip of a switch. The anticipated limited initial availability of very low sulfur fuel oil combined with what we believe will be a slower than expected pace of scrubber installations will create a market gap that can only be filled by gas oil and create up to 2 years of market disruption before equilibrium is reached.

Moving to Slide 11, we take a look at the impact of IMO 2020, specifically on tanker demand. The transition to compliant fuels will have a significant impact, leading to higher seaborne volumes of gas oil as demand is forecasted to increase by 1 million to 1.5 million barrels a day commencing January 1, 2020. Surplus high sulfur fuel will have to be redirected from current consuming regions for further processing or alternative uses, thereby boosting demand for crude tankers. There's also expected to be a redirection of crude flows as refineries look to respond to the new market conditions, with high-complexity refineries sourcing heavy sour crudes and simpler refineries searching for light sweet crudes.

More specifically, demand for product tankers is expected to increase substantially. Generally speaking, global imbalances for whatever reason create oil price volatility, increased arbitrage opportunities and thus oil trading activity. And IMO 2020 looks like it's going to create some very serious imbalances in the oil market.

This should lead to a significant tonne-mile demand boost. As an example, Europe, which is roughly 30% of the global bunker market, is anticipated to substitute at least 700,000 barrels a day of high sulfur fuel oil compared with compliant fuels, initially, mostly marine gas oil, and thus create a very sizable 2-way trade of gas oil in and locally produced high sulfur fuel out.

The U.S. Gulf, Middle East and Asia regions are all expected to become significant exporters of compliant fuels not only to Europe, but to scores of other local bunker markets worldwide, substantially increasing tonne-mile demand. It's also worth highlighting that the new VLSFO fuel blends will be made with a large percentage of gas oil to meet the sulfur cap, thus adding to the incremental demand for MGO.

Overall, IMO 2020 looks set to create a substantial amount of incremental demand for tankers in general and product tankers in particular with, estimates ranging anywhere from 5% to 15%. Even the lower end of this estimate will be enough, we believe, to significantly boost charter rates.

And now I will turn the call back to Paul to take us through a fleet update and our financials.

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Paul Tivnan, Ardmore Shipping Corporation - Senior VP, CFO, Treasurer & Secretary [5]

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Thanks, Tony. Moving to Slide 13, we will take a run through the fleet days. Revenue days this year will increase by 2% to 9,933 days. We had 59 drydock days in the third quarter, 4 drydocks and 2 in-water surveys, and we expect to have 35 drydock days in the fourth quarter.

Turning to Slide 15, we will take a look at our financials. As you will see on the second line, we're reporting a net loss for the third quarter of $12.2 million, or $0.37 per share. Total overhead costs were $4.4 million for the quarter, comprising corporate expenses of $3.4 million and commercial and chartering expenses of $1 million. As mentioned before, in many companies, the commercial and chartering costs are incorporated into voyage expenses, which means that our corporate cost is the comparable overhead. Our full year corporate cash costs are expected to be $12.5 million, which works out at approximately $1,250 per ship per day across the fleet.

For the fourth quarter, we expect total overheads, incorporating cash and commercial, to be $4.3 million, which includes both cash and noncash items. Depreciation and amortization for the third quarter was $9.9 million. We expect depreciation and amortization for the full year to be $39 million, which equates to $10 million for the fourth quarter.

Interest and finance costs were $6.2 million for the third quarter, comprising cash interest of $5.6 million and amortized deferred finance fees of $600,000. We expect interest and finance costs for the full year to be come in at $26.1 million, and for the fourth quarter, this equates to $7.9 million, comprising cash interest of $6.2 million, amortized deferred finance fees of $600,000 and deferred finance fees written-off of $1.1 million related to the 4 -- refinancing of 4 vessels in October.

Moving to the bottom of the slide, operating costs for the quarter came in at $16.3 million or $6,176 per day across the fleet, including technical management. OpEx for the Eco-Design MRs were $6,279 per day. The Eco-Mod MRs came in at $5,903 per day, while the chemical tankers came in at $6,249 per day.

Looking ahead, we expect total operating expenses for the full year to come in at $67.3 million or $6,620 per day, and this equates to OpEx for the fourth quarter of approximately $17.6 million.

Turning to Slide 16, we take a look at charter rates for the third quarter. In spite of soft charter market conditions, the spot MRs reported TCE of $10,314 per day, basis discharge-to-discharge, while the fleet average came in at $10,261.

Looking at the various ship types, we had 15 Eco-Design MRs in operation, which earned an average of $10,684 per day, and the 7 Eco-Mod MRs earned $9,645 per day. Our 6 chemical tankers had average rates of $10,093 for the quarter, continuing their strong performance relative to the larger MRs.

Looking ahead to the fourth quarter, with 50% of the days booked to date, the spot MRs have earned approximately $11,000 per day, while the chemical tankers have also earned approximate $11,000.

Overall, we remain focused on managing performance and voyage efficiency to maximize TCE.

On Slide 17, we have our summary balance sheet, which shows at the end of September, our total debt and leases was $442 million, leaving our corporate leverage at 54.9%.

Turning to Slide 18. We remain focused on maintaining a strong liquidity position. Pro forma cash balance at the end of September was $53 million, including the refinancing of 4 vessels. As mentioned, we completed the sale and leaseback of 4 vessels in October, 2 2015-built chemical tankers, which we refinanced under a 12-year capital lease with Ocean Yield, while 2 2014 MRs were financed under 7-year capital leases with a top-tier Asian financier.

Both transactions closed and funded at the end of October, and the terms and pricing is in line with our existing debt and lease arrangements.

And finally, we note that all of our debt, including capital leases, is amortizing at $44 million per year.

And with that, I would like to turn the call back over to Tony.

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Anthony Gurnee, Ardmore Shipping Corporation - Founder, President, CEO & Director [6]

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Thanks, Paul. So to sum up, then, we're reporting a net loss of $12.2 million or $0.37 per share, reflecting product tanker market weakness during the third quarter. Meanwhile, MR rates have recovered from the summer slump and are increasing into the winter months, with a strong rebound in crude tankers leading a general market recovery. MR tonne-mile demand growth is robust, underpinned by an estimated 1.4 million barrels a day of oil consumption growth for 2019 and matched by refinery capacity additions in trading-oriented locations.

The MR order book remains at a record low of 4.7%. Supply growth is expected to be close to 0 in 2018 and around 1% in 2019.

IMO 2020 is expected to be a game changer, with increased seaborne volumes of compliant fuels, increased arbitrage opportunities and oil trading activity all contributing to a significant boost in tonne-mile demand.

While we're very bullish on the market outlook, we are maintaining a strong liquidity position and financial flexibility, with quarter-end cash at $53 million on a pro forma basis and conservative leverage at 55%. All told, Ardmore is well positioned to benefit from the expected recovery in product tanker charter rates through significant earnings power, with each $1,000 per day increase in rates translating into $0.31 of EPS.

And with that, we're now pleased to open up the call for questions.

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Questions and Answers

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Operator [1]

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(Operator Instructions) The first question we have will come from Jon Chappell of Evercore.

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Jonathan B. Chappell, Evercore ISI Institutional Equities, Research Division - Senior MD [2]

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One for each of you. Paul, if I can start with you, on the sale and leaseback transactions. First of all, can you just explain the thought process behind it? Obviously, the market's gotten a little bit better. You're very optimistic about '19. Was this a situation where the terms were kind of too good to be true, and you felt that you needed to act? Or did you feel that you needed to be more defensive at this time because we're yet to really kind of break out?

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Paul Tivnan, Ardmore Shipping Corporation - Senior VP, CFO, Treasurer & Secretary [3]

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That's a great question, Jon. Yes, I think we -- and the market, obviously, hit a trough in September. And in terms of financing, we always try and continue to evaluate the financial profile of the company to match the needs of the business in terms of balance sheet, liquidity and capital allocation strategy going forward. So I think on this occasion, we were -- the terms presented were quite attractive and also recognized the market outlook for the third quarter and early into the fourth quarter as well. I think rates are definitely improving now, but we -- certainly, where I said, it's partially risk management and making sure that we have financial flexibility and adequate liquidity for market conditions and also for the opportunities that arise that we can do something more.

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Jonathan B. Chappell, Evercore ISI Institutional Equities, Research Division - Senior MD [4]

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Okay. And there's probably some commercial sensitivities, and maybe we can talk about it off-line, but just to speak to those terms, can you give us a rough idea of what the actual sales proceeds were? As we try to figure out asset value trends. And also the same thing on the terms of the debt, spread over LIBOR.

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Paul Tivnan, Ardmore Shipping Corporation - Senior VP, CFO, Treasurer & Secretary [5]

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Yes, there is some commercial sensitivity around that, particularly for the other side as they attain and negotiate other deals. Clearly, they don't want to disclose the specifics of our transaction. But the Asian-based -- the Asian financier was a slightly higher advance than a standard senior loan. And then the deal with Ocean Yield was typical kind of sale and leaseback financing with a much higher advance.

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Jonathan B. Chappell, Evercore ISI Institutional Equities, Research Division - Senior MD [6]

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Okay. Tony, just one for you. I appreciate you putting some meat on the bone of the IMO 2020, and hopefully that really does start to impact the market soon. You probably deal a lot with a lot of the oil traders, who probably move a lot of product, and therefore are your customers, but also, I would imagine, are kind of licking their chops at the opportunities of this arbitrage which will probably happen. So to that extent, have they reached out to you at all looking for any type of term contracts associated with preparing their fleets and their cargo movements for this new regulation?

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Anthony Gurnee, Ardmore Shipping Corporation - Founder, President, CEO & Director [7]

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Honestly, the answer is not yet, but that's probably coming when we get into 2019. Because typically, the charters are one year, and if they can do it, they do an option one year. So it's probably not in the fixing window yet for that.

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Operator [8]

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Next, we have Ben Nolan of Stifel.

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Benjamin Joel Nolan, Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Incorporated, Research Division - MD [9]

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Tony, I had a question. I know that -- or if I recall correctly, last time, you spent some time talking about the impact that the Brazilian truck drivers strike had, had on the MR market. I was curious if you have any update there? Or I believe that the government is providing subsidies for the refineries. How does that change the Atlantic market going forward, if at all? If you could talk to that a little.

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Anthony Gurnee, Ardmore Shipping Corporation - Founder, President, CEO & Director [10]

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Yes, sure. The volumes into Brazil have actually recovered substantially. This is, in part, a result of a reimbursement program that the Brazilian government put into place not just for Petrobras but for others as well, to compensate them for the subsidized price they had to sell diesel at in Brazil. So that's actually resulted in a fairly substantial recovery. It's not quite where it was, but its reasonably healthy at the moment, and we think that will continue to improve as the government policy incrementally shifts back toward more market-driven solutions.

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Benjamin Joel Nolan, Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Incorporated, Research Division - MD [11]

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Okay, that's helpful. And then switching gears a little bit but kind of staying more on a macro level. How are you viewing the chemical side of your business or the easy chem side of it? And then maybe more specifically, do you think that there are any potential impacts from IMO 2020 on that side of the business in addition -- or rather than just sort of focusing on the product side?

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Anthony Gurnee, Ardmore Shipping Corporation - Founder, President, CEO & Director [12]

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Well, you'll notice that we didn't put a slide in the deck this time on the chemicals sector because nobody ever asks questions about it. The reality is that the actual chemical -- the volume of chemical cargoes that we move is only about 10% of our overall revenue, so it is relatively small. It's important to remember that our ships, the chemical tankers do roughly 1/3 to 1/2 of their businesses is refined products. So they've actually been trading quite well. What we do is we do kind of a very simple capital adjustment in our mind to MRs of, if you look at all 6 of them, of around $700 a day. And on that basis, they've been actually trading very well for the last few quarters relative to MRs. We think that the big driver for the chemical sector, and especially our end of it, which is the simpler coated end, over the next period is going to be the MR market, because there's so much cross-trading and overlap between them in terms of cargo. So yes, we think that to the extent that the MR market benefits from IMO 2020, we think that'll filter down to chemicals as well.

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Operator [13]

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The next question we'll have will come from Randy Giveans of Jefferies.

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Randall Giveans, Jefferies LLC, Research Division - Equity Analyst [14]

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My first question, so you were mentioning that 9 LR2s have already switched kind of from products to crude. I guess, one, do you see that kind of trickling down to maybe LR1s and possibly even MRs? And two, for those first cargoes, for a new build VLCC, Suezmax coming out of shipyards, are they still taking products? Or are they going straight to crude with the rates being so high?

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Anthony Gurnee, Ardmore Shipping Corporation - Founder, President, CEO & Director [15]

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We would expect a continued flow. If there's this much of a differential as there is right now, we would expect a continued flow of LR2s from clean back into dirty. It's not going to be the newest ships or the ones that are part of core clean product trading fleets, but there's a lot of LR2s that are trading clean that are in the hands of mixed fleets or others, or maybe older, where it would make sense to switch over. And it's very tempting. Because the rates on the Aframax routes have been much stronger. And so we think that will continue, and for every one LR2 that moves over, that's effectively taking 2 MRs out of supply, out of the market, out of our business. We don't really see a lot of activity on the LR1 side in the same way. They tend not to switch back and forth quite as often. But we can check into that. And then there was a last part of the question that just escaped me.

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Randall Giveans, Jefferies LLC, Research Division - Equity Analyst [16]

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Yes, no problem. Just those first cargoes, when a vessel gets delivered, are they clean haul? Yes, go ahead.

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Anthony Gurnee, Ardmore Shipping Corporation - Founder, President, CEO & Director [17]

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We don't have any information. But, again, you have to imagine that if Aframax rates are this strong, they're probably not going into initial gas oil trades. But again, that's something that -- this is all relatively fresh in terms of market development, and that's something we'll look into.

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Randall Giveans, Jefferies LLC, Research Division - Equity Analyst [18]

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Sure. Okay. And then, I guess one more question. Can you provide some more color on, obviously, your plans to compliance with IMO 2020, no scrubber orders, maybe why have you not scrubbers? Is it fuel availability? Is it lack of, really, fuel burn on your smaller MRs? You've had some competitors put scrubbers on MRs. Obviously, you are not doing that. Can you discuss that a little bit?

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Anthony Gurnee, Ardmore Shipping Corporation - Founder, President, CEO & Director [19]

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Yes, happy to. So I think it's important to highlight the fact that every company has its own set of particular circumstances and framing and decision-making process. And so it doesn't mean that one answer is right and the other one is wrong. We've chosen, for the time being, not to go down the scrubber route. Our own view is that the return on investment and the risks around it for an MR are not particularly compelling, the way we see it. If we were to install scrubbers across our fleet, it would be $60 million or $70 million. Quite frankly, we would be buying ships rather than installing scrubbers if we have that kind of capital ready to invest.

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Randall Giveans, Jefferies LLC, Research Division - Equity Analyst [20]

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Excellent. Very political answer at beginning there, in theme with the election.

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Anthony Gurnee, Ardmore Shipping Corporation - Founder, President, CEO & Director [21]

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It also happens to be true.

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Operator [22]

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The next question we have will come from Fotis Giannakoulis of Morgan Stanley.

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Fotis Giannakoulis, Morgan Stanley, Research Division - VP, Research [23]

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Tony, I want to follow up on Randy's question, and give us a little bit more detail about how do you view the returns of installing scrubbers? And if you can tell us how many days does your vessel spend in -- at sea, sailing and steaming fuel? And also, at which routes do you think there's going to be availability of the existing 3.5% high sulfur fuel? And which routes you think there might be a risk of not being able to find the current fuel?

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Anthony Gurnee, Ardmore Shipping Corporation - Founder, President, CEO & Director [24]

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Well, Fotis, rather than answer that, you can just buy my book. Just kidding. That's a very detailed, involved set of questions there. I'll do my best to answer it a little bit succinctly, but also happy to talk about it off-line. So look, in terms of economics, it's very much a function of your view of the spread between gas oil and 3.5% or the new 0.5% fuel. So I think that's not worth dwelling on right now, but that's the main driver. I think when it comes to MRs, it's important to remember that we really very often have no idea where the ship is actually going when it's committed to a charter because we give the oil traders such a broad range of discharge options. And therefore, the availability of 3.5% sulfur is, if you have a scrubber on an MR is really kind of the key concern, because we tend to trade to what you would call outports rather than with imports. So it's fairly clear that 3.5% sulfur will be -- fuel will be certainly made available on all the main bunkering hubs in the world, and very low sulfur fuel oil as well. But what will be available to the outports is really the question. And the other point I'll make is that at least the way we trade our MRs, very often, the cargo intake is constrained by draft. And so if you're -- so you typically optimize the bunker intake to get the most out of the cargo intake to maximize your TCE. And if you go into a location where you're not sure about the availability, with a scrubber-equipped ship of 3.5% fuel, you might end up loading more high sulfur fuel oil in the load port and then shutting out cargo, which would have a typically an outsized impact on your TCE. So there's a whole bunch of issues around this. It's not that it's not a good investment or something that we think is a good move by some companies. But we don't think it's, the way we trade our ships and they way we think of our capital allocation, it's interesting but not compelling for an MR.

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Fotis Giannakoulis, Morgan Stanley, Research Division - VP, Research [25]

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Tony, you mentioned that instead of installing scrubbers, you'd find more value in acquiring ships. Can you be a little bit more specific? We've seen a big discrepancy in the movement of asset prices between younger and older vessels. Is there more value right now on older vessels? Or with the new IMO regulations, you would stick in a relatively moderate tonnage?

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Anthony Gurnee, Ardmore Shipping Corporation - Founder, President, CEO & Director [26]

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Well, we've made no secret of the fact that, if we were allocating capital to acquisitions at the moment, it would probably be in the 7- to 10-year age bracket. And we think that those are compelling investments right now.

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Operator [27]

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(Operator Instructions) The next question we have will come from Magnus Fyhr of Seaport Global.

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Magnus Sven Fyhr, Seaport Global Securities LLC, Research Division - MD & Senior Shipping Analyst [28]

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Most of my questions have been answered, but just if you could, as a follow-up on the last question, have you seen the shipyards getting more aggressive on their new build slots? Or is pricing relatively firm?

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Anthony Gurnee, Ardmore Shipping Corporation - Founder, President, CEO & Director [29]

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The pricing seems relatively firm, and the yards that are still in business, I think are really just operating on a drip-feed basis, where they're taking in the minimum number of orders that they have to, to keep things ticking over. And interestingly, the more kind of top-tier yards are holding out for some pretty high prices. So it's not cheap at the moment.

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Magnus Sven Fyhr, Seaport Global Securities LLC, Research Division - MD & Senior Shipping Analyst [30]

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And your thoughts, ordering new build versus secondhand acquisitions if you had the cash?

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Anthony Gurnee, Ardmore Shipping Corporation - Founder, President, CEO & Director [31]

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Secondhand.

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Operator [32]

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Next we have Michael Webber of Wells Fargo.

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Gregory Adrian Wasikowski, Wells Fargo Securities, LLC, Research Division - Associate Analyst [33]

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It's Greg on for Mike. So just starting with the vessel positioning, did you guys see a migration of ships from West to East in the past quarter? And did Ardmore participate in that migration? Or do you expect that to continue, if you haven't seen it yet? Any color there?

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Anthony Gurnee, Ardmore Shipping Corporation - Founder, President, CEO & Director [34]

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We did, when there was a big differential in rates, we did see a migration of ships from the West to the East. That was also augmented by some NAFTA trades which took some MRs, but also a lot of LR2s, from West to East. We didn't participate in that. And at the moment, we're roughly 60% -- 60%, 65% Atlantic and kind of 35%, 40% Pacific at the moment. So we're pretty happy with that.

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Gregory Adrian Wasikowski, Wells Fargo Securities, LLC, Research Division - Associate Analyst [35]

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Okay. And then just hopping over to IMO 2020. So does the adoption rate of the VLSFO have any effect on product tankers demand or tonne-mile? If we think about it, for consumption of MGO versus VLSFO, especially at the beginning, does that matter if VLSFO has more of an uptake or if it's more MGO? Or is it going to be the same trade lanes, the same demand, the same tonne-miles whichever way it falls out?

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Anthony Gurnee, Ardmore Shipping Corporation - Founder, President, CEO & Director [36]

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Well, I think that everything else being equal, more MGO and less very low sulfur fuel oil would be better for the product tanker market. But we think it will be overall strong enough that, that's not going to have a major impact. But that's a big question, how much VLSFO is going to be made available on day 1 and where it will be and what's the stack compatibility? But also interestingly, as I mentioned in the presentation, we've read estimates of around 30%. VLSFO is actually gas oil -- or going to be gas oil, right? So clearly, what they're doing is they're trying to find extremely low sulfur fuels that they can then blend to bring the sulfur content down to 0.5%, and at least some of the ones that we've looked at are 30% gas oil. So that clearly will have an impact. The other thing that's not really been discussed but you have to wonder about, there has been some limited discussion about taking intermediate product out of refineries, like vacuum gas oil, that could be feedstock for the new fuels, and how will that be shipped? Will that go on crude takers? Or do they have to be cleaned up or if they're going to go on CPP or clean trading product tankers because of the sulfur -- the risk of sulfur contamination. So it's all interesting and largely unknown, and that's the part of it which is particularly intriguing.

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Gregory Adrian Wasikowski, Wells Fargo Securities, LLC, Research Division - Associate Analyst [37]

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Got it. Okay. And then just a quick one for Paul. Apologies if you've put this out already, but do you have any thing on drydock days in 2019, what you expect, just for modeling?

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Paul Tivnan, Ardmore Shipping Corporation - Senior VP, CFO, Treasurer & Secretary [38]

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We haven't put anything out on that yet. I would estimate about 150 days. But I'll confirm and I'll come back to you on that one.

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Operator [39]

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Well, showing no further questions at this time, we will conclude today's question-and-answer session and the conference call. I would like to thank the management team for their time today and all of you for joining today's conference call.

At this time, you may disconnect your lines. Thank you, take care, and have a great day, everyone.