Investors are not happy with Harry Vafias and his tanker vehicle Imperial Petroleum.
Shaken by the New York-listed company’s decision to issue more than 100m shares in the last month, shareholders grilled the Greek shipping magnate during a testy earnings call on Tuesday.
When asked for an assurance that the company would not continue tapping equity markets, Vafias demurred.
“There can be no assurances because we don’t know what the markets are going to be like in two months, we don’t know how the capital market are going to be like in two months and we don’t know what the strategy for additional acquisitions will be in two months,” he said.
“I can only speak about now and the previous quarter.”
In late May, StealthGas spin-off Imperial Petroleum issued 72.7m shares to raise $40m, which it promptly spent on buying two suezmaxes.
Initial information reported by TradeWinds on 23 May was the suezmaxes were acquired by Vafias family private vehicle Brave Maritime.
On 27 May, however, Imperial Petroleum revealed it was the buyer instead and that it had acquired the vessels from an unaffiliated third party.
On Monday, the tanker owner announced it had raised a further $21m by issuing 31.1m shares at $0.70 per share through warrant redemption. The warrant holders were issued another set of warrants to purchase 31.1m shares.
Not long after the request for assurances that Imperial Petroleum would not continue issuing shares, the call became combative.
One investor, whose name was indiscernible, implied that the company only took care of larger investors in the warrant redemption. Vafias said this was the doing of Maxim Group, which served as the warrant inducement agent.
“You’re the company, you have to sign off on it,” the investor said. “When does the shareholder get taken care of?”
Vafias then requested the operator to move on to the next caller. But the investor interjected: “I don’t think he’s answered the question. We’d like to have an answer to the question.”
Vafias replied: “If you’re shouting and screaming, we have better things to do.”
A caller from Parallax Investments asked how fleet expansion would be paid for in the future.
“Equity raises and through the profits generated by the current ships, plus the debt raised on the current ships,” replied Vafias, who later in the call said he hopes the company can become a “medium to big” shipowner.
The caller then attempted to compare Imperial Petroleum to Performance Shipping, a smaller, New York-listed tanker owner accused of diluting shareholders to buy ships.
Vafias refused to answer the question.
“We have cash, we have very low leverage, we have growing profits, we are at a time when tankers are doing really well and we’re going to see the benefits of a rising tanker market in Q2 and Q3,” he said. “We just have to be patient.
“You can buy and sell our stock whenever you like. You’re not obliged to keep the stock.”
For the first quarter, Imperial Petroleum posted a modest $200,000 profit, up from a $400,000 loss for the same period last year.
Its revenue grew to $5.1m sequentially and was a slight improvement over the first quarter of 2021, when it posted $5m in revenue.
It did not provide forward fixture revenue, but Vafias said he expects the second quarter to be better than the first.
((This article was amended after original publication to clarify that Imperial Petroleum bought two suezmaxes from an unaffiliated party))