There was a "new guy" on the investor conference call when International Seaways and Diamond S Shipping announced their landmark combination on 31 March.

Alongside the familiar voices of Stifel's Ben Nolan, Clarksons Platou Securities' Omar Nokta and Amit Mehrotra of Deutsche Bank was some fellow named Magnus Fyhr, representing a bank called HC Wainwright.

But of course, Fyhr was not new at all.

Veterans of ship finance and equity markets will recall him as the indispensable equity analyst for Jefferies in the early 2000s, when there were just a handful of US-listed companies.

The names that did trade coveted the spotlight his research brought in a landscape devoid of analysts in the maritime space. Fyhr worked alongside hard-charging investment banker John Sinders in the years leading up to the shipping boom for initial public offerings of 2005.

Fyhr was back and on the International Seaways-Diamond S call because he had initiated coverage on 12 tanker companies just two days earlier — his first roll-out of research after signing on with HC Wainwright last November.

It was some timing.

"I had just written a note on Seaways calling them something like 'an emerging bellwether ready to take centre stage'. It only took them two days," Fyhr said, chuckling at the acquisition that makes the Lois Zabrocky-led tanker owner the second-largest of US listings by vessel count and third by cargo capacity.

Ben Nolan of Stifel. Photo: Chris Preovolos

And indeed, Fyhr was all about the tanker owners in his return to research in a career that has seen him work in several analyst roles but also as an investment banker for Clarksons between 2019 and 2013.

Omar Nokta of Clarksons Platou Securities. Photo: Marine Money

"After seeing how dry bulk and containership stocks had run up already this year, it made more sense to initiative on the crude and products owners from an investment standpoint — there's still time to get into these names," Fyhr said.

Fyhr had a reputation as a market bull during his Jefferies days, so it may not be surprising that he has come out with "buy" ratings on seven of the 12 tanker owners currently under his coverage. The remainder are on "hold" ratings.

It was clear from an interview with Fyhr that he is not making the case for a big turnaround in rates tomorrow, but he does like the fundamentals as inventories continue to destock and demand picks up in the year's second half.

"Despite rates continuing to be poor, these stocks were up close to 25% on the year at the end of the first quarter, which does show some of the cyclical rotation of investors back into the sector," Fyhr said.

"That tells you investors feel the bottom has been reached. The bottom-fishing is done. And investors who haven't gotten in yet have the opportunity to build their positions between now and the end of summer. Now is the time to start looking at these things."

Still, the recovery is not here yet.

"The stocks are consolidating at these levels, but you need an improvement in rates to confirm that. Today many of these companies are still operating below cash break-evens, but they may get to break-even by the end of the summer."

Lois Zabrocky's International Seaways was 'an emerging bellwether' for analyst Magnus Fyhr even before it gobbled up Diamond S Shipping last month. Photo: TradeWinds Events

Asked if he saw clean products or crude returning to health first, Fyhr said the outlook is a mixed bag.

"It's tough to say, but crude has always been the leader," Fyhr said, noting expectations for improved Opec+ production in the year's second half.

"On the product side, more refineries are being built closer to the well head, which will result in improved tonne-miles. For the second and third quarters, I don't really see a lot of catalysts."

For the pure-play crude tanker owners, Fyhr places "buy" ratings on Euronav and Performance Shipping, with "hold" ratings on DHT Holdings, Frontline and Nordic American Tankers.

On the clean side, Fyhr slaps a buy on Scorpio Tankers while keeping Hafnia and Ardmore Shipping in the "hold" zone.

But Fyhr seems to have greatest faith in four owners with mixed fleets of crude and product tankers, placing "buys" on International Seaways, Teekay Tankers, Tsakos Energy Navigation and Diamond S.

Of course Diamond S is expected to be off the board by the third quarter given the International Seaways deal.

"I think it's a great combination for Seaways. It gets their market cap close to $1bn. They were kind of stuck with a bunch of companies in the $500m range, but this sets them apart," Fyhr said.