Safe Bulkers is targeting more stock repurchases despite a fall in earnings in the first quarter.

The New York-listed Greek owner of 44 panamax, kamsarmax and capesize ships said it will pursue buybacks of 5m shares, or 4.5% of its equity.

This amount also represents 8.1% of its public float.

At the closing price of $3.67 in New York on Wednesday, the slice would be worth $18.35m.

The plan comes hot on the heels of another 5m buyback announced in March, and an identical one dating from last June.

The Polys Hajioannou-led company posted its 11th consecutive profitable quarter in the three months ending in March, but net income declined to its lowest level in two years.

Weaker earnings from its vessels caused net revenue to shrink to $66.8m, down 14% from the same period last year.

This dragged down profit, with net income nearly halving to $19.3m.

This week, Norwegian investment bank Cleaves Securities came out with a bullish read on bulker prospects as it recommended investors take a position in Safe Bulkers.

‘Buy’ rating

It started coverage of the shipowner with a “buy” rating and a $7.10 target price per share, seeing a big upside to its stock.

Cleaves is predicting earnings will rise by 50% for capesizes by 2025, increasing asset values and share price.

“The company can easily pay out 50% of net income going forward, but has the potential for much more,” it added.

The investment bank is expecting adjusted net profit of $120m for 2023, rising to $146m next year. This figure could reach $224m by 2025 and $269m the following year.