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MOL Expects Dry Bulk Market to Remain Firm Moving Forward, But Tankers Will Keep on Suffering

We recorded revenue of ¥288.8 billion, operating profit of ¥8.0 billion, ordinary profit of ¥104.2 billion and profit attributable to owners of parent of ¥104.1 billion in the first three months of the fiscal year 2021. We recorded ¥91.2 billion of equity in net earnings of affiliated companies in non-operating income, mainly due to improved earnings at OCEAN NETWORK EXPRESS PTE. LTD (ONE), an equity method affiliate. The amount of equity in net earnings of affiliated companies we recorded which was attributable to ONE was ¥87.7 billion.

The following is a summary of business conditions including revenue and ordinary profit/loss per business segment.

Upper: Segment Revenue, Lower: Segment Ordinary Profit (Loss)

(A) Dry Bulk Business

In the Capesize bulker market during the first three months of the fiscal year, the charter rate rose to more than US$40,000 per day in early May, the highest since 2013, due to growing demand for the transportation of raw materials driven by brisk exports of major mining companies and steel manufacturers reflecting rising prices of iron ore and steel products. While the charter rate entered the correction phase after that, it turned up again in early June on the back of the strong market for small- and medium-sized bulkers and iron ore shipments from Australia. In the Panamax bulker market during the first three months of the fiscal year, the charter rate rose from mid April due to solid demand for the transportation of grain and coal bound for China and continued to rise subsequently, driven by grain shipments from the Atlantic Ocean region to the Far East. Under these market conditions, we secured new time charter contracts and contracts of affreightment by capturing customer demand. We also took steps to improve the efficiency of vessel allocation and profitability by consolidating sales and vessel operations for dry bulkers other than those for the steel mill industry and domestic electric power companies into MOL Drybulk Ltd., which was established in April 2021 through a business and structural integration with Mitsui O.S.K. Kinkai, Ltd. Thanks to the contribution of these initiatives, the dry bulk business posted a year-on-year increase in profit in the first three months of the fiscal year.

(B) Energy and Offshore Business

In the very large crude oil carrier (VLCC) market, the charter rate was exposed to harsh market conditions rarely seen in recent years due to the continuation of coordinated output cuts by the OPEC Plus and the prolonged sluggish oil demand due to COVID-19. The product tanker market also saw the challenging market conditions continue, given reasons such as periodic repairs at refineries and a fall in exports and imports of China due to tax reform for certain petroleum products in the country, in addition to weak demand for petroleum products due to the continued COVID-19 pandemic. The cargo volume of chemical tankers continued to be low due to problems occurring at petrochemical plants caused by the cold wave in the Gulf region of North America. Under these market conditions, the tanker division as a whole suffered a year-on-year decline in profit, despite its efforts in cost reduction and the stable fulfillment of long-term contracts.

 

The LNG carrier division continued to generate stable profit mainly through existing long-term charter contracts. For the offshore business division, existing FPSO projects and subsea support vessel businesses, etc. were generally operating steadily. In the FSRU business, one new vessel was put into a long-term contract after delivery. However, the time charter contract for an existing vessel was renewed, and this resulted in a deterioration of profitability year on year.

(C) Product Transport Business

ONE, the Company’s equity-method affiliate, saw cargo volume increase markedly from the same period of the previous year when the COVID-19 had made an impact, but encountered supply constraints mainly due to port congestion at major ports in North America and Europe and railway congestion inland in North America. These developments helped tighten the supply-demand balance, and spot freight rates remained considerably higher than the year-ago level. As a result, the containerships business recorded a significant year-on-year increase in profit.

Transportation volume of completed cars increased significantly from the same period of the previous year when it had been affected by the global decrease in automobile production amid the COVID-19 pandemic, although semiconductor supply shortages also had an impact. Profitability improved significantly year on year due to the recovery of cargo movements combined with the effect of the rationalization of vessel allocation.

The business of ferries and coastal RoRo ships secured more shipments than a year ago by capturing solid cargo transportation demand. Although number of passengers were generally recovering, the results were sluggish due to the strong impact of people refraining from going out and traveling due to the declaration of a state of emergency by the Japanese government. Profit deteriorated year on year due to the factors above combined with an increase in ship operation costs caused by rising bunker prices.

(D) Associated Businesses

The real estate business generated stable profit on par with the year-ago level, despite a fall in sales associated with the reconstruction of some buildings held by Daibiru Corporation, the core company in the Group’s real estate business. In the cruise ship business, although cruise ship was in operation at the beginning of the fiscal year, the total number of days in operation were short, since it was forced to suspend its service due to the resurgence of COVID-19 infection, resulting in year-on-year decrease in profit. The tugboat business posted a year-on-year increase in profit, reflecting the recovery in the number of vessels requiring tugboat services entering/leaving port.

(E) Others

Other businesses, which are mainly cost centers, such as ship operations, ship management, ship chartering and financing posted a year-on-year increase in profit.

(2) Outlook for FY2021

(For consolidated cumulative second quarter of the fiscal year 2021)

(For consolidated full fiscal year 2021)

(A) Dry Bulk Business

The Capesize bulker market is expected to remain firm as shipments from Brazil are expected to increase going forward, in addition to solid shipments of iron ore from Australia. However, we believe that attention needs be paid to declining demand for raw materials for steel production in China, given the environmental measures of the Chinese government and its moves to reduce excess capacity of crude steel production. The Panamax bulker market is expected to remain robust, underpinned by tight vessel supply in the Atlantic basin and firm grain demand in and after the second quarter, although it is possible for the vessel supply-and-demand conditions to slacken temporarily in the Pacific region, given the concentration of vessel allocation from the Atlantic Ocean region to the Far East. Under these market conditions, the dry bulk business as a whole is expected to post higher profit year on year.

(B) Energy and Offshore Business

The VLCC market is expected to remain weak even in and after the second quarter due to the continuation of crude oil production cuts by oil producing countries and a delay in the recovery of oil demand, but is anticipated to recover gradually in the second half as economic activities resume with further progress in vaccinations and the expected reduction of crude oil production cuts. In the product tanker market, we expect that cargo movements of jet fuel and diesel oil will recover gradually as vaccination progresses. While we expect market conditions and cargo movements to recover, profit is expected to decrease year on year in the tanker division as a whole.

In the LNG carrier division, one LNG carrier and one LNG-bunkering vessel are scheduled to be delivered, and (Unaudited translation of ‘Kessan Tanshin’, provided for reference only) July 30, 2021 6 the division expects to continue generating stable profit mainly from existing long-term contracts. In the offshore business, profitability is expected to deteriorate year on year chiefly due to the renewal of a time charter contract for an FSRU, although two FPSOs are scheduled to be delivered.

(C) Product Transport Business

In the containerships business, although we expect that the strong cargo movements seen at present will continue for the time being at ONE, we anticipate that space shortages will ease, and freight rates will settle down in association with the normalization of ports and inland logistics.
In the car carrier business, while there are still concerns over the effects of COVID-19 and the shortage of semiconductors, the tendency towards a recovery in shipments volumes is expected to continue. We will keep focusing on rationalizing vessel allocation and operating more efficiently whilst maintaining an appropriate level of fleet size. In the business of ferries and coastal RoRo ships, the impact of a resurgence of COVID-19 infections on business performance is a concern, but we expect that the progress of vaccination will help change the sentiment and produce a rebound in the number of passengers.

(D) Associated Businesses

The impact of COVID-19 on the real estate business is expected to be limited, but is likely to affect the performance of the cruise ship business and the travel business depending on the continuation of the COVID-19 situation, although the scale of their businesses is not large.

Full Report

Source: Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd. (MOL)

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