Triton CEO positive on sector’s trade growth
Global containerised trade growth is expected to remain positive this year, despite economic uncertainty created by the ongoing trade dispute between the United States and China.
That is the view of Brian Sondey, chief executive officer of Bermudian-based Triton International Limited, which is the world’s largest lessor of intermodal freight containers.
The company reported adjusted net income of $99.4 million, or $1.25 per share, for the fourth quarter of 2018. That was an increase of 47.1 per cent per share, year-on-year.
Triton had a 98.2 per cent utilisation rate for its containers in the final three months of 2018, which was slightly lower than the average rate for the year of 98.6 per cent.
Adjusted net income for the year was $363 million, or $4.52 per share, up 62.6 per cent year-on-year.
Mr Sondey described the fourth quarter as an excellent finish to the year.
He said: “Triton’s strong financial results in 2018 were driven by outstanding operational performance, our unique competitive advantages and a favourable market environment.
“Container pick-up activity remained strong for most of the year, reflecting ongoing trade growth and a tight supply/demand balance for containers. We also continued to benefit from an increase in the share for leasing relative to direct container purchases by our customers, and a continued high leasing deal share for Triton.”
He added: “The start of the fourth quarter typically marks the end of the peak season for dry containers, and net container pick-up and drop-off activity has turned negative. New container prices have also decreased to the $1,700 range due to a combination of lower steel prices and aggressive competition among the container manufacturers for limited slow-season orders. However, our long-term lease portfolio provides significant insulation from seasonal variation, and our utilisation currently stands at 97.6 per cent.”
Triton ordered $1.8 billion of containers for delivery in 2018, leading to an 8.8 per cent growth in revenue earning assets. It returned $2.01 per share to investors through dividends during the year.
During the fourth quarter, Triton repurchased 2.1 million shares.
Looking ahead, Mr Sondey said the company was carrying “significant financial momentum” into this year. He added: “While the ongoing trade dispute between the US and China has increased trade and economic uncertainty, our customers and market forecasters generally expect global containerised trade growth to remain solidly positive in 2019.
“The inventory of available used leasing containers also remains very tight and we expect our shipping line customers to continue to rely heavily on leasing.”
Mr Sondey noted that the first quarter is traditionally the weakest quarter of the year and represents the “depth of the slow season for dry containers”.
He said: “As a result, we expect our adjusted net income will decrease from the fourth quarter of 2018 to the first quarter of 2019. After the first quarter, we expect our adjusted income to increase moderately throughout the year as leasing demand improves seasonally.”
• Disclosure: the author owns shares in Triton International ,/i>