Bourbon First-Half Ebit Rises 44% Amid Growth in Vessel Demand

Bourbon SA, owner of the biggest fleet of supply and crew ships for the oil industry, reported a 44 percent increase in earnings before interest and taxes as day rates climbed amid rising demand from offshore projects.

First-half Ebit climbed to 92.1 million euros ($123.3 million) from a year earlier, the Paris-based company said in a statement. Net income dropped 15 percent to 14.4 million euros because of currency exchange losses and higher taxes, it said.

“Robust investments in exploration and production by oil and gas clients continue to stimulate demand for offshore vessels,” Chief Executive Officer Christian Lefevre said on a conference call with reporters. Demand for large offshore vessels “continues to increase.”

Bourbon agreed earlier this year to sell and lease back 51 vessels to China’s ICBC Financial Leasing for as much as $1.5 billion under a deal aimed at lowering borrowings. A transaction for the first nine vessels has now been signed and the rest of the vessels will be sold within 10 months, Bourbon said today, allowing “rapid debt reduction.”

Fleet Sales

The plan is the first phase of one that could see the company selling as much as 30 percent of the supply vessel fleet for as much as $2.5 billion. Under a $2 billion expansion plan, Bourbon planned to operate 600 owned and chartered ships by 2015, up from 458 at the end of last year.

The company plans to sell 24 vessels within the next two months for about $700 million, Lefevre said on the call. Spending in the first half pushed up net debt to 2.19 billion euros at the end of June from 2.06 billion euros at the end of 2012, he said.

The shipowner has sought diversification of financing away from French banks and could borrow from the financial market by 2015, Chief Financial Officer Laurent Renard has said.

Bourbon is sticking to a sales-growth target for 2015 and aims for positive cash flow this year and through 2015, Lefevre said on the call.

The average daily rate at which Bourbon rents vessels excluding crewboats rose 5.9 percent in the latest six-month period compared with last year, Bourbon said.

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