- Earnings forecast cut
- Supply to outstrip demand
- EBITDA forecast worsens, keeping outlook negative
- Moody’s shipping outlook negative since March
Moody’s, the global rating agency, says it is maintaining its negative outlook for the global shipping industry as a result of what it attributes to supply outstripping demand in key shipping segments for the rest of 2020 and likely entering 2021. It says it has kept to this negative position since March, 2020.
In its latest report on the world’s shipping business, the rating agency also based its position on the expectation that shipping companies, which it rates globally, will witness significant declines in their earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) over the next 12 to 18 months.
“These expectations reflect quarantines and lockdown measures introduced in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic as well as the related global economic downturn,” Moody’s noted.
And it says a revision of this negative outlook to stable would only be considered in the event that both the oversupply of vessels declined materially such that shipping supply growth did not exceed demand growth by more than 2% and year-over-year aggregate EBITDA growth appeared likely to be between -5% and +10%, adding that a revision to positive outlook would be considered if the oversupply of vessels declined materially and aggregate year-over-year EBITDA growth appeared likely to exceed 10%.
Doing a tooth-picking of the different shipping segments, Moody’s stated that the outlook for the dry bulk segment is negative, noting that although the sharp decline in the Baltic Dry Index (BDI), a measure of dry-bulk rates, has recently reversed, market conditions will continue to be highly volatile. “The reduction in iron ore cargoes from Brazil in the aftermath of last year’s Vale S.A. (Ba1 stable) dam accident and significant new supply of vessels slated for delivery in 2020 also pose risks. These risks are only partially offset by the resumption of industrial activity in China,” Moody’s stated.
It also kept outlook for the container shipping segment negative, but added that there were still positive signs emerging as a result of unprecedented capacity adjustments by the carriers, keeping freight rates above last year’s levels despite a significant decrease in the bunker price.
“Nevertheless, this positive development could be challenged by a resurgence in infections, endangering fragile demand for finished and semi-finished goods in advanced economies in North America and Europe. We expect the supply of new vessels in 2020 to be slightly lower than last year with further postponements and cancellations likely, but still exceeding the lacklustre demand,” it stated.
It, however, forecasts a stable outlook for the tanker segment of the global shipping industry, noting that tanker rates have benefitted tremendously from high demand for floating storage, but that charter rates will return closer to long-run averages in the second half of the year as broad economic weakness finds its way into the tanker market. “Positively, new vessel deliveries are reducing in 2020 after several years of overbuilding in the industry,” it further explained.
The report notes that both the comparable and the aggregate EBITDA of rated shipping companies are predicted to decline by around 16%-18% in 2020 compared with last year, a widening from an earlier prediction of a drop of around 6%-10%; noting that comparable EBITDA incorporates organic growth, but excludes mergers and acquisition (M&A).
“Previously we had forecast an EBITDA decline of around 6%-10% in 2020. Our more pessimistic view is largely based on the gloomier outlook for the global economy in 2020 and the likelihood that its recovery will be long and bumpy. We expect G-20 advanced economies collectively to contract 6.4% in 2020 before growing at 4.8% in 2021, while G-20 emerging markets will collectively contract 1.6% in 2020, followed by 5.9% growth in 2021” the report by Moody’s stated.
It also observed that the continued restrictions on the movement of people, as well as some goods, also bode ill for the global shipping industry’s prospects.
Specifically, it noted that the global shipping industry is facing a number of challenges over the next 12-18 months, including geopolitical uncertainties, such as the US-China trade negotiations and the US-EU discussions, adding that although the introduction of the International Maritime Organization’s lower global sulphur cap on marine fuels (IMO 2020) from 1 January caused less disruption than Moody’s expected in the first quarter of 2020, in part because of the recent sharp decline in crude oil prices, the effects of this legislation are still filtering through.
“Two of the main options for companies to comply with IMO 2020 are to use low sulphur fuel, which is more expensive, or to outfit vessels with scrubbers, which are costly, to clean exhausts of excess sulphur while continuing to burn cheaper fuel oil.
“While tonnage providers (companies that charter out their fleets) are less sensitive to changes in fuel expenses because these costs are passed through to their customers in most cases, they can form a significant share of container liners’ cost bases,” the report also stated.
It notes that falling crude oil prices have led to substantial declines in both regular and low sulphur fuel oil prices, observing that in the first quarter of 2020, container liners, such as A.P. Møller-Mærsk A/S (Maersk, Baa3 negative), CMA CGM S.A. (B2 negative), and Hapag-Lloyd AG (B1 negative), have been quite successful in passing on these costs to their customers.
“We also recently reduced our medium-term crude oil price assumptions to $45-$65/barrel (bbl), down from $50-$70/bbl. The price range reflects our view that oil prices will remain highly volatile, with periods outside the top or bottom ends of the range,” it noted.
On global trade, Moody’s said it expects global trade to contract by around 11.9 per cent this year, adding key reasons for this to the coronavirus-induced drop in consumer demand and investment in the second quarter, and disruptions along supply chains and shipping routes resulting from coronavirus lockdowns.
It said consumer demand will recover only gradually in the second half of the year. In addition, the pandemic will complicate and possibly delay US-China “phase two” trade negotiations, and UK-EU and US-EU negotiations, adding that in the longer term, a move to more regional supply chains, which was already occurring in the auto and electronics sectors, could also accelerate, as well as further shifts toward domestic production of critical goods, such as pharmaceuticals and food.
“This is likely to lead to the reconfiguration of a number of shipping routes, although the ultimate effect on tonne-miles, a key revenue driver, is uncertain at this point. The crisis has also laid bare the vulnerabilities of just-in-time supply chain management and could prompt companies to consider moving supply chains closer to their final markets and building redundancies,” the report noted.