MPC Container Ships is expecting to earn more money than previously thought this year, as charter demand hots up.

The Oslo-listed, German-owned feeder ship specialist has increased its Ebitda forecast to between $280m and $305m, up from $240m to $280m previously.

Revenue is predicted to rise by up to $20m more than the earlier estimate.

Ebitda was $96.1m in the first quarter, compared with $141.4m a year earlier, as rates fell from last year’s peaks.

Net profit for the period was $76.5m, against $119.7m in 2023, while operating revenue was described as “strong” at $147.5m, down from $180.1m.

MPC Container is paying a dividend of $0.13 per share, or $57.7m. The company has been a darling of retail investors in the past few years due to its high dividend payments.

Average time charter equivalent earnings were $27,452 per day, down from $30,989 per day a year ago.

Fleet utilisation edged up to 98.9%, from 97.1% year on year.

Co-chief executive and chief financial officer Moritz Fuhrmann called the quarter “robust”.

“Our revenues were bolstered by high utilisation, driven by the rescheduling of several dry-dockings to the latter half of the year,” he said.

Longer-term deals available

The charter backlog stood at $900m, with contract coverage for 84% of 2024 days and 47% in 2025.

Co-CEO Constantin Baack said Houthi attacks on shipping have forced carriers to reroute vessels around the Cape of Good Hope, disrupting supply/demand dynamics and resulting in “significantly” increased freight and vessel charter rates.

“Over recent months, the market has firmed up considerably, with smaller vessels now being fixed on charters for 12 to 24 months or longer, and increasingly on forward charter positions, driving an improved contract coverage and earnings visibility,” he added.

“Still, the outlook remains uncertain due to the potential resolution of the Red Sea Crisis and the increased supply of new vessels in the larger segments, which could change the current supply-demand dynamics.”

Fearnley Securities said earnings beat consensus as the owner kept ships operating instead of dry-docking them.

The investment bank noted that the group has been busy on the chartering side, reporting 12 new deals since the last quarterly update.

The most “impressive” fixtures were for the 2,824-teu AS Carelia (built 2006) and AS Claudia (built 2007), according to analyst Fredrik Dybwad.

These were booked for two years at $19,500 per day, three or four months ahead of the end of their current deals.

For comparison, Fearnley Securities quotes one-year deals at $25,600.

Six older vessels were sold in the period, for total proceeds of $61.3m.

At quarter-end, MPC Container controlled 56 boxships.

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