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Frontline posts worse than expected Q2 loss

LONDON (Bloomberg) Frontline Ltd, the world’s biggest operator of supertankers, reported a worse-than-expected second quarter loss and said the “weak trend” would persist, while the time for acquisitions “has moved closer.”

“The situation has, of course, got quite a bit more worse in the last three or four months,” Jens Martin Jensen, CEO of Frontline’s management unit, said in an interview in Oslo on Friday. “I think that the window has moved closer, but it is not here yet.”

The net loss was $35.2 million, or 45 cents a share, compared with net income of $81.3 million, or $1.04, a year earlier, the Hamilton, Bermuda-based company said in a report on Friday. The loss was expected to be $30.2 million, the median of 17 analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Frontline’s supertankers earned $26,100 a day in the second quarter, below the $29,800 needed to break even.

Frontline dropped 0.86 krone, or 2.4 percent, to 34.63 kroner by the 5:30pm close in Oslo trading. The stock has plunged 77 percent this year, heading for a fourth straight annual decline.

Charter rates in the single-voyage market slumped 92 percent in the past 12 months as a glut of ships overwhelmed gains in demand to haul crude, according to data from the Baltic Exchange in London. Owners ordered the most vessels in about three decades in 2007 and 2008, when returns exceeded $229,000 a day, just as the world economy entered its worst recession since Second World War.

That’s left a monthly surplus of about 50 supertankers, known as very large crude carriers, Jensen told analysts on a conference call on Friday.

“It could be possible to purchase 50 older VLCCs, double- hull VLCCs, at around $1.5 billion,” Mr Jensen said on the call. “Scrap value of these ships are in the region of $1 billion. So who will take the $500 million gamble?”

Frontline is still turning down some business because rates are too low, Mr Jensen said. It will seek to reduce exposure to loss-making vessels and will maintain waiting-time policy and ultra-slow steaming, he said.

Reduced speeds increase the amount of time needed for tankers to complete voyages, effectively curbing vessel supply, and cut fuel consumption. The price of ship fuel, or bunkers, climbed 26 percent this year to $642.39 a metric tonne as of Thursday, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Sailing a ship empty is called ballasting.

“Bunker prices have gone up, the market has become worse, so we are going at lower speed,” Mr Jensen said. “Our ballast speed is around 10 knots, maybe nine-and-a-half to 10, and laden speed is around probably 12-and-a-half.”

The company’s total newbuilding programme was about $650 million at the end of the second quarter and the very large crude carrier newbuilding construction programme is expected to be delayed by four to five months, executives said during a presentation.

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Published August 29, 2011 at 10:00 am (Updated August 28, 2011 at 7:45 pm)

Frontline posts worse than expected Q2 loss

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