ECONOMY

Passenger shipping companies disappoint at the stock market

The performance of passenger shipping companies on the equity market in the first quarter of the year has been disappointing. The recession gripping the tourism industry, over-borrowing by the companies due to their expensive investment program, and the rising price of oil have created a negative climate for the passenger shipping sector which is reflected in their stock prices. The fall in capitalization has also negatively affected the marketability of these stocks and attempts by the companies’ management to restructure their loans with banks. Last week, ANEK managed to agree with its creditor banks to restructure payments of its loans. Strintzis’s entry onto the Piraeus-Hania itinerary seems to be successful, judging from the results of its subsidiary, which recently published passenger and vehicle traffic for March that showed a 44.93 percent jump in passengers, a 15.53 percent increase in cars, and an 8.09 percent rise in trucks. Blue Star 2, one of the vessels servicing the route, reported carrying 27,798 passengers, 2,099 cars and 313 trucks, giving it a 41.86 percent share of the passenger market, 39.08 percent of the car market and an 8.58 percent of the truck market. The long Clean Monday weekend saw the company increasing its passenger traffic by 51.18 percent from the same period last year. The equity yield from all five listed passenger shipping companies is negative, with Lesvos-based NEL’s share down by 31.34 percent. It is a fact that investors have abandoned the sector as they do not understand the rules and operation of the passenger shipping industry. There is also confusion regarding the differences between passenger shipping and oceangoing shipping. Another problem for domestic passenger shipping companies is the large number of vessels servicing the lines, with the majority focusing on prime lines and ignoring unproductive lines. Cabotage was abolished last year but to date there has been no interest from foreign shipping companies. Regarding the rumored takeover of Hellas Flying Dolphins by Minoan Lines, a decision should be known by June. The latter has asked a big company to do a study on the issue and this should be finalized around this time. According to Minoan Lines President Constantinos Klironomos, Hellas Flying Dolphins has reduced its borrowing to 70 million euros while a restructuring program has brought down operational costs and improved its profitability. It has reduced its 74 vessels to 50 and withdrawn 25 old craft, either by selling them or by destroying them. The domestic passenger shipping company constitutes a major part of the Greek economy. In recent years, the companies have conducted a race to see which could construct the biggest and fastest vessels. This might have happened without the companies taking into account their interests as many did not make enough profits to pay for their ships. Consequently, the companies need to make a fresh attempt to attract Greek travelers who voyage on their vessels throughout the year.