Omega Navigation Enterprises, Inc. (NASDAQ: ONAV) (SGX: ONAV50), a provider of global marine transportation services focusing on product tankers, announced it has taken delivery of the first of its newbuildings, the 47,000 dwt. Omega Duke. It further announced that it has taken several measures to better position itself to fund its newbuilding commitments from internally generated cash flow. As previously announced, Omega has commitments from commercial banks to provide 75% financing at delivery of all of its remaining newbuildings based on contract prices or fair market values at the time of delivery.
In May 2008, Omega announced it had entered in to an agreement with an unrelated third party to purchase two newbuilding 47,000 dwt. coated product / chemical tankers under construction at Hyundai Mipo Dockyard in South Korea. Omega is pleased to announce that the company and Glencore International AG (through wholly owned subsidiaries) have agreed to enter into an equal partnership joint venture for the purchase of the first of the above vessels. Consequently, the Omega Duke was recently purchased by a company belonging to the joint venture at a price based on current market valuation. The Omega Duke has been purchased by a combination of previously secured bank financing and equity injected by both partners and will not be consolidated in Omega's financial statements. The owning company has time chartered the vessel to ST Shipping (Glencore International, AG) at current market rates for a period of five years together with an excess profit arrangement. The base time charter rate fully covers operating expenses and debt service.
The company has also announced that they have entered into a time charter agreement with ST Shipping & Transport Pte Ltd. on the Omega Queen with profit share, on an evergreen basis subject to termination notice of two months. The base rate fully covers operating expenses and debt service.
Omega's Board of Directors decided to temporarily suspend the company's dividends. This action will enhance the company's liquidity and overall financial flexibility enabling it to continue with its growth plans even in these most uncertain times funding its newbuilding program through internally generated funds and bank debt. Omega has commitments from commercial banks to provide 75% financing at delivery of all of its seven newbuildings based on contract prices or fair market values at the time of delivery.
The decision to suspend dividends was taken independently of any loan covenant requirements as the company was in full compliance with all covenants at the end of the most recent quarter. The Board of Directors will continue to monitor the shipping and capital markets and future capital expenditures of the company and determine when dividends may be reinstated and the level of those dividends.
Omega President and CEO George Kassiotis commented, "We are disappointed that the unparalleled economic conditions in which we live, have forced the current suspension of our dividend. Through the first quarter of 2009 we have returned over $80 million in the form of dividends to our shareholders. The proactive initiatives we have undertaken, including the suspension of dividends and the formation of the joint venture, will enable us to fund our growth plans through internally generated cash flow and the debt we already have commitments for. Omega has always taken the position that while we believe in generating value for shareholders through the payment of dividends, we should not do this at the expense of growing the company. We seek to optimize the management of our capital exposure, deliver our balance sheet and create synergies which will enhance our ability to preserve our position in the product tanker industry, fund our growth plans and take advantage of opportunities during challenging times. We are also very pleased to enjoy such a strong business relationship with Glencore, one of the largest commodities traders in the world. The joint ownership of the Omega Duke is further evidence of the high standards of operating performance that our company offers to its customers and end users of its vessels and also demonstrates our ability to create synergies in a challenging environment. We want to thank our lenders for the continuing support to our Company and its growth initiatives especially in these current market environment."