U-Ming Marine Transport Corp’s (裕民航運) shareholders on Tuesday approved a proposal to distribute a cash dividend of NT$1.9 per share, the highest payout in five years.
The dividend represents a payout ratio of 99 percent based on earning per share (EPS) of NT$1.92 last year.
“U-Ming ranks first in terms of cash dividend among the nation’s shipping companies,” U-Ming chairman Douglas Hsu (徐旭東) told shareholders at the bulk shipper’s annual general meeting in Taipei.
Wisdom Marine Lines Co (慧洋海運) said it would pay a cash dividend of NT$1.5, while Wan Hai Lines Ltd (萬海航運) and Taiwan Navigation Co Ltd (台灣航業) each said NT$0.8, and Evergreen Marine Corp (長榮海運) said its would pay NT$0.25.
The steady increase in the number of shareholders over the past few years showed that more retail investors have confidence in the company, Hsu said.
However, along with its peers, U-Ming did not fare well in the first quarter, as the spread of COVID-19 forced many nations to implement lockdowns and adopt border controls, which hurt the industry worldwide.
U-Ming reported a net loss of NT$387 million (US$13.02 million) for the first quarter, or net losses of NT$0.46 per share, compared with a net profit of NT$90 million, or earnings per share of NT$0.11, for the same period last year.
The company attributed the losses to the fall in the valuation of its financial assets following the turmoil in the global financial market in March and falling freight rates, Hsu told reporters on the sidelines of the meeting.
The Baltic Dry Index, which reflects the daily price of shipping dry goods such as coal, iron ore and grains, averaged 591.56 points in the first quarter, compared with last year’s average of 1,353 points, Hsu said.
“Sea freight transport weakened amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which disrupted international trade and slowed down global economy,” he said.
Officials said they expect freight rates to recover next quarter, as lockdown measures are easing, the COVID-19 situation is improving and governments are launching stimulus measures.
“Overall, the second half of the year would be better than the first half,” U-Ming president C.K. Ong (王書吉) said.
U-Ming is confident about its competitiveness, as the average age of its fleet is under six years, compared with the industry’s average of 10.2 years, as it has retired 20 vessels since 2012 and introduced more than 30 energy-efficient vessels, Ong said.
U-Ming would equip some of its vessels with scrubbers to reduce emissions to meet new regulations set by the International Maritime Organization, he added.
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