How Do You Fill-up In The Middle Of The Ocean

| November 17, 2009 | 0 Comments

A few weekends ago I was out running errands.  It was one of those days… too much to do and no time to do it.  About midway through my marathon list of stops to make and things to do, I realized I was out of gas.  It’s very unlike me.

It wasn’t one of those… Oh, I need to fill up in the next day or two situations.  Nope, this was serious.  The gas gauge said I had about 13 miles to go before empty.

Clearly, I needed to find a gas station – and quick.

For once, I wasn’t worried about what the price was.  This certainly wasn’t the time to search for gas selling a few cents cheaper.

I found a local Shell station and pulled in.  I had 6 miles to spare… or so my car’s computer was telling me.  I was relieved… I didn’t want to walk miles and miles for gas.

This little experience got me thinking… dangerous, I know.

I started wondering how many other people wait till the very last minute to fill up.  Or for that matter, how many people run out of gas.

What about other forms of transportation… like ships?  Huge trans-Atlantic shipping vessels must carry a lot of fuel.  Think about how much fuel it must take to move a giant oil tanker across the ocean.

I wonder how they fill up… It’s not like there’s a Shell gas station floating in the middle of the ocean… is there?

That’s when I uncovered a really interesting company… Aegean Marine Petroleum Network (ANW).

Sounds like an oil pipeline doesn’t it?  The company is traded on the New York Stock Exchange, but they aren’t exactly in the pipeline business. They deliver fuel to huge ships at sea.

Aegean owns 39 tankers located all over the world.  These tankers are essentially floating gas stations.  They’re filled with fuel for huge ships.  If you need a fill-up in the middle of the ocean, they’re the one to call.

Need to fuel-up a super tanker full of oil… call Aegean.
Need to fill the tank on a giant container ship… call Aegean.
Need to fuel up a Carnival Cruise Ship … you’ve got it… call Aegean.

Now, Aegean isn’t some fly by night gas can.

Nope, they’ve invested hundreds of millions into their high tech shipping fleet.  Their 39 fuel ships are dispersed throughout the world… they operate out of Jamaica, West Africa, Northern Europe, Greece, Trinidad, Vancouver, and even Singapore… just to name a few.

And in 2010, their fleet’s going to get even bigger.  They’re set to take delivery on 15 new ships next year.

It’s a fascinating business… but how do they make money?

Just like your local gas station, Aegean makes most of their profit on the fuel spread.  That’s the difference between what they pay for fuel and what they can sell it for.  Last quarter, Aegean’s fuel spread jumped substantially… driving profits through the roof.

Aegean’s profits soared 49% over last year’s.

But that’s not what interested me.  What really caught my eye is their sales volumes on fuel.

I found some really interesting developments in their sales patterns.  For example, fuel sales dropped like a rock between the fourth quarter of 2008 and the first quarter of 2009.  That makes sense… the global recession put the kibosh on economic activity.

As a result, businesses shipped fewer goods… and shipping companies bought less fuel.

But that’s been slowly changing.  Fuel sales have been growing steadily since the first quarter of 2009.  In the third quarter of 2009, the company sold more fuel oil than in the fourth quarter of 2008…

Business is picking up.

Shippers are moving more goods.  If they weren’t, why would they be buying more fuel?

Higher fuel sales mean shipping companies are conducting more business.

The shipping industry is one I like to watch from time to time.  And now’s the time to watch it closely.  I see the shipping stocks doing really well in the next few months and beyond.  One of my favorite companies in this industry is Diana Shipping (DSX).  You’ve no doubt heard me mention them before.

They specialize in the shipping of dry bulk goods.  These are commodities like iron ore, coal, and grains.  They’re the building blocks of the global economy.  As the economy improves, demand for these commodities will rise sharply (we’re already seeing the early signs of this).  Increased demand means more buyers… and that means more shipping.

More shipping means more business for Diana Shipping.

Right now, you can buy Diana Shipping on the cheap.  It’s trading at about a 50% discount from the highs of just two years ago.  As business improves, so will their profitability.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see their earnings grow by 50% or more in the next few years.

If you want an easy way to play the economic recovery, take a look at Diana.  It’s a great company with stock poised to jump in the next few months.

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Category: Stocks

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The Dynamic Wealth Report works with a number of staff writers and guest experts who specialize in everything from penny stocks to ETFs to options trading. These guest analysts post under the 'staff writer' moniker for ease of use.

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