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Yesterday after market close, Excel Maritime Carriers Ltd. , a global dry bulk carrier, declared solid financial results for the first quarter of 2011. GAAP net loss in the first quarter of 2011 was $1 million or a loss of 1 cent per share compared with a net income of $67.3 million or 82 cents per share in the year-ago quarter.

However, the quarterly adjusted (excluding special-items) EPS of 1 cent was in contrast to the Zacks Consensus Estimate of a loss of 4 cents.

Quarterly total revenue was a little over $98.1 million compared with $172.2 million in the prior-year quarter. This huge reduction was primarily attributable to extremely volatile freight environment in the global drybulk shipping industry.

Nevertheless, quarterly Voyage revenue of $97.3 was well above the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $86 million. In the reported quarter, Time Charter Equivalent (TCE) per day was $19,642 compared with $24,451 in the prior-year quarter.

Quarterly total operating expenses were nearly $92.5 million, up 6.7% year over year. This was mainly attributable to a 117% increase in Voyage expense. Quarterly adjusted EBITDA was $48 million, down 22.5% year over year.

An average of 48.3 Excel Maritime vessels were operated during the first quarter of 2011 compared with 47.0 in the year-ago quarter. Management announced that the company secured under time charter employment 65% for the fiscal-year ending December 31, 2011.

During the first quarter of 2011, Excel Maritime generated $43.8 million of cash from operations compared with $46.9 million in the prior-year quarter. Free cash flow (cash flow from operations less capital expenditure) in the reported quarter was $25.5 million compared with $24 million in the year-ago quarter.

At the end of the first quarter of 2011, Excel Maritime had $79.5 million of cash & cash equivalents compared with $65.9 million at the end of fiscal 2010. Total debt, at the end of the reported quarter was $1,137.9 million compared with $1,154 million at the end of fiscal 2010. At the end of the first quarter of 2011, debt-to-capitalization ratio of 0.37 remained the same as at the end of fiscal 2010.

Recommendation

Excel Maritime operates in a highly competitive drybulk shipping industry. Its main competitors are Diana Shipping Inc. (DSX - Snapshot Report), Genco Shipping & Trading Ltd. (GNK - Snapshot Report), and DryShips Inc. (DRYS - Analyst Report). We maintain our long-term Neutral recommendation on Excel Maritime.

However, currently the company holds a short-term Zacks #4 Rank (Sell) on the stock. We believe this was primarily attributable to the stiff reduction of drybulk spot freight rates in the recent past.