Sun | Jan 21, 2018

LNG shipper under financial pressure

Published:Friday | June 3, 2016 | 12:00 AMSteven Jackson

Golar LNG, the company which secured a two-year contract to ship liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Jamaica, posted huge net losses, has a working capital deficit and its chief executive officer resigned last month.

The shipping company continues to suffer from a slowdown of the LNG industry during a global oil price drop, symptomised by almost US$700 million of negative working capital.

The Jamaica contract is a bright spot for the company amid declining revenue.

"Partially mitigating the loss of this income was revenue earned by the Golar Arctic which commenced its two-year FSU service with New Fortress Energy, offshore Jamaica," said Golar in financial results issued this week.

Golar also aims to refinance debt and launch new growth initiatives to adapt to the soft global LNG market.

New Fortress, an American company, is contracted by Jamaica Public Service Company to supply LNG to its Bogue plant. The pipeline and terminal have been developed but delivery of the gas, which should have started in April, has been pushed back to August.

On Wednesday, New Fortress promised responses on the implications of Golar's finances for its contract, but had not followed through up to press time.

Golar reported net losses of US$80 million for its first quarter ending March. The loss was mainly due to its US$61.5 million in operating expenses towering over its US$18.6 million in revenues for the period.

Adjusted for exceptional items, losses would only have amounted to US$41.2 million.

Fundamentally, its revenue gap has defined the accounts since at least 2014. Consequently, Golar posted a US$197.6-million net loss for financial year 2015 and US$43 million in net losses for 2014.

Last month, CEO Gary Smith resigned and its former CEO, Oscar Spieler, retook control of the company. Golar cited restructuring as a necessary move to adapt to the new LNG reality, and the reason for the resignation.

Spieler, a naval architect, previously served as CEO of Golar between July 2009 and June 2011. He has a "successful track record of delivering complex offshore and shipping-related projects," stated the financials. A release from the company indicated that both men previously traded the CEO position. Smith, who was promoted to CEO in January 2015, previously served as Golar CEO between March 2006 and July 2009.

Amid these changes, the company's current assets

of US$530 million were overpowered by current liabilities of US$1.23 billion as at March 2016, resulting in negative working capital of US$670 million.

Burning through cash

Additionally, Golar has been burning though its cash holdings, which dropped from US$376 million to US$93 million in the space of one year.

The company still holds a strong US$1.8 billion in equity, but it fell from US$2.2 billion a year earlier.

Golar explained that the fast-growing LNG industry is going through a "rapid transformation" where monetisation of stranded gas, lowering the cost of LNG production and the opening of new markets are all critical success factors.

"An anticipated delinking of LNG prices from oil prices will also create additional demand for LNG. The traditional approach to executing LNG projects favoured by many oil majors may not cost effectively meet this new demand," the company said.

Natural gas prices are reportedly at seven-year lows. The commodity is currently trading around US$2.40 per 1,000 cubic feet in the US.

At the same time, however, oil continues to trade below US$50 per barrel, which is still less than half the price crude was trading at two years ago.