Shipping services group Clarkson leapt nearly nine per cent today despite releasing six-month results that were accompanied with management commentary that referenced a "challenging environment" as well as a "challenged" and "continued challenging market".
Revenues were broadly flat at £147m compared to £145m in 2015. Underlying operating profit was slightly down at £21m compared to £24m.
However, there were considerable exceptional costs in 2015 that reduced profits to £12m – principally in relation to acquisition and financing costs of Norweigan shipping broker Platou – these were not repeated in 2016.
Cash outflow over the period was £72m, compared to £29m in the 2015. Cash balances stood at £106m.
Debt and loans totalled £23m – this is legacy financing for the Platou purchase and repayable in full by June 2017.
Interim dividend pay-outs remained unchanged at 22p.
Why it's interesting
The fact that Clarkson managed to produce results that were broadly flat was a surprise to some analysts. Panmure Gordon said that earnings were 10 per cent ahead of expectations and reiterated their "buy" recommendation.
The cash numbers do not include the anticipated pay-out from the sale of Baltic Exchange, a deal that is expected to complete in the second half of 2016 and net the London-based firm a further £12m.
Despite references to "short-term market turbulence" and a generally downbeat tone, the benign results impressed the market with the sharp upward shift in the company share price.
What Clarkson said
Chief executive Andi Case:
The global shipping industry is experiencing the most challenging rate environment seen in many years which, as previously highlighted, has inevitably impacted the group's performance for the first six months of 2016.
In the short-term we believe our markets will remain highly challenged, reflecting the ongoing supply demand imbalance with the resultant low levels of new-building contracts and a prevalence of spot business continuing to limit forward visibility of earnings.
However, we believe industry operators and investors will look to these difficult trading conditions to seek solutions and exploit areas of opportunity
Our business is highly cash generative and through our strong balance sheet we will continue to invest and take advantage of opportunities, positioning the group for upturns in each of our markets when they come.