As I write my annual letter to you we are just few months away from what is possiblythe biggest and most controversial regulatory change to impact shipping industry. Thischange which comes into effect from Jan 1 2020 regulates the sulphur emitted by shipsas a result of their fuel usage and will have a significant impact on our industry. Thejury is still out on how this will play out as it encompasses a host of issues like tradepattern changes slow steaming early scrapping and most importantly unknown technicaland operational challenges but the general consensus is that it will have a positiveimpact on our markets over the short to medium term. Your Company has set up a dedicatedteam of highly qualified people to manage this change in a timely and cost-efficientmanner.
Over the next few years our industry is facing multiple other regulatory changes someof which will entail substantial capital allocation.
I am sure most of you have been seriously concerned about the news on the US - Chinatrade war and its implications on the global economy. The fortunes of our industry arepositively correlated with the economic state of the world at large and therefore acontinuation of the trade war or possibly an escalation of the same will not augur wellfor our industry.
Much like in our financial year 2017-18 the year 2018-19 was also a challenging onefor the shipping industry. While the tanker market showed signs of recovery in the secondhalf of the year the dry bulk markets weakened towards the end of the year due to someunexpected events. While shipping markets continue to fluctuate wildly and hence make itdifficult to predict we continue to maintain our focus on issues more within our control:operational and technical excellence ongoing training to our seafarers and effectivecost management across the board.
Our focus on operational excellence is beginning to reflect in some complimentaryfeedback that we are receiving from third parties who have inspected our vessels.
Feedback on Aframax Tanker Jag Laxmi:".... I wish to extend kudos to yourselfyour officers and crew for a job well done! ... It was very easy to see that themaintenance of the vessel was kept at a high standard... I have been performing theseinspections for many years and your vessel is one of the best based on the crewcohesiveness professionalism and pride in their vessel."
Feedback on Kamsarmax bulk carrier Jag Akshay: ".vessel was found by PSCinspectors in excellent condition...one of the inspectors said that in his career this isone of the best vessels that he carried out an inspection."
Apart from the shipping markets the depreciation of the rupee versus the US Dollaraffected your Company's profit negatively. As I mentioned in my statement of last yearthis was an outcome of the new accounting standards.
The Board of Directors has decided that even though your Company has not made anaccounting profit for the year they would recommend a dividend of र. 5.40per share based on the cash reserves of the Company and the foreseeable capexrequirements which are predominantly to meet regulatory changes.
This year in addition to paying dividend the Board has on June 1 announced abuyback of upto र. 100 crores. We believe that buybacks should be an integral part ofour capital allocation process. Whenever our stock trades at a significant discount to ournet asset value (NAV) and that NAV is being determined at a low point of the asset cyclea buyback can deliver strong returns to our shareholders over the long run. Our stock isowned by different kinds of investors ranging from small and big individual shareholdersto large institutions and mutual funds. Balancing the different needs of differentshareholders between dividend and buy back is always a challenge but you can be restassured your Board does its best to balance the needs of all our shareholders. So whilethe dividend takes care of cash flow needs the buyback at certain price points can addlong-term value.
Your Company's wholly owned subsidiary Greatship (India) Ltd. also continues to facechallenging markets with day rates for rigs as well as supply vessels languishing at verylow levels. On the positive side many market analysts believe that the worst of the cycleis over and that utilization rates as well as asset values will keep improving albeitgradually. With cash reserves of over 160 mn USD and reasonable contract coverageGreatship is in a position to ride out this difficult period.
On the regulatory front our industry received a most unusual and unpleasant challengewhen in February this year the government issued a notification bringing in farreaching changes that effectively removed the preference to Indian flag vessels for theIndian trade. Astonishingly this change disregards the importance of being an Indianflagged vessel and the large investments made by our industry which contributemeaningfully to the Indian economy. This unfortunate approach by our own Ministry is instark contrast to measures being taken by other maritime nations across the world inrecognising the importance of a strong maritime fleet.
Your Company has along with other industry players been successful in getting thenotification stayed by the court. As I mentioned in my chairman's statement two years agoI hope the government will gain a better understanding and appreciation on the role playedby our industry for the growth of the Indian economy and thereby provide an environmentwhich encourages its growth in both size and quality.
In the last few years your Company has through its CSR Foundation worked towardshelping the underprivileged with a special focus on education healthcare and livelihoodand skill development. The focus of the foundation is now slowly moving towards projectsin rural India with greater emphasis on women and children.
And finally we would like to extend ourwarm welcome to the two new Directors on ourBoard Mr. Ranjit Pandit and Mr. Raju Shukla both of whom have had very distinguishedcareers and are currently in entrepreneurial and philanthropic roles.
Our sincere thanks to all our employees both onshore and aboard our fleet who strivetogether towards attaining the highest standards of excellence. And of course to you myfellow shareholders who have stood by us through thick and thin.
With warm regards
K. M. Sheth