Kirby to invest $100 million in new tank barges

Kirby Corporation  (NYSE:KEX)  plans  2011 capital spending of $220 to $230 million, including approximately $100 million for the construction of 40 new inland tank barges and three new inland towboats, and approximately $36 million in progress payments on the construction of a new offshore integrated dry-bulk barge and tugboat unit with an estimated total cost of $50 million.

The spending plans were announced yesterday when Kirby reported first quarter ended March 31, 2011 earnings of $32.4 million, or $.60 per share, compared with $24.7 million, or $.46 per share, for the 2010 first quarter.  The 2010 first quarter net earnings included a charge for retirements and shore staff reductions of $4.1 million before taxes, or $.05 per share.  Kirby's published 2011 first quarter earnings guidance range was $.56 to $.61 per share.  Consolidated revenues for the 2011 first quarter were $299.4 million compared with $268.3 million reported for the 2010 first quarter. 

Joe Pyne, Kirby's Chief Executive Officer commented, "Both our  marine transportation and diesel engine services businesses improved during the quarter compared with the majority of the 2010 quarters.  Our strong balance sheet has allowed us to take advantage of acquisition opportunities which have expanded both our marine transportation and diesel engine services footprints."

Segment Results – Marine Transportation

Marine transportation revenues and operating income for the 2011 first quarter increased 10% and 25%, respectively, compared with the 2010 first quarter.  Demand levels for the petrochemical tank barge fleet continued to improve during the 2011 first quarter. Low natural gas prices, a basic feedstock used by many customers, continued to positively impact the global competitiveness of the United States petrochemical industry.  Black oil products demand levels also remained strong, driven by refinery maintenance and the exportation of diesel fuel and heavy fuel oils.  During the 2011 first quarter, tank barge utilization for the petrochemical and black oil products fleets moved into the low 90% levels.  Diesel fuel prices for the 2011 first quarter increased 24% compared with the 2010 first quarter, positively impacting marine transportation revenues since fuel price increases are covered by fuel escalation and de-escalation clauses in term contracts. 

The marine transportation segment's 2011 first quarter operating margin was 21.8% compared with 19.3% for the first quarter of 2010. The higher margin reflected the improved petrochemical and black oil products demand and equipment utilization levels, modestly higher term and spot contract pricing, and the positive impact of cost reduction initiatives.  These were partially offset by the cost impact of rising diesel fuel prices and increased delay days from more difficult winter weather operating conditions and lock delays. 

Segment Results – Diesel Engine Services

Diesel engine services revenues and operating income for the 2011 first quarter increased 18% and 31%, respectively, compared with the 2010 first quarter.  The increase in revenues and operating income reflected a stronger medium-speed power generation market with engine-generator set upgrade projects and higher parts and engine sales, stronger maintenance cycles for Midwest and West Coast medium-speed marine customers, and an improvement in direct parts sales to transit railroad customers.  These increases were offset by continued weak service levels and direct parts sales for both the medium-speed and high-speed Gulf Coast oil services markets. The diesel engine services operating margin was 11.5% for the 2011 first quarter compared with 10.4% for the 2010 first quarter. 

Cash Generation

EBITDA for the 2011 first quarter was $80.4 million compared with $66.2 million for the 2010 first quarter.  Capital expenditures were $31.1 million, including $12.7 million for new inland tank barge and towboat construction and $18.4 million primarily for upgrades to the existing fleet.  Acquisition costs of businesses and marine equipment were $58.5 million.  Total debt as of March 31, 2011 was $200.1 million, consisting primarily of a $200 million private placement loan that matures in February 2013, and Kirby's debt-to-capitalization ratio was 14.3%.  Cash and cash equivalents at March 31, 2011 were $172.1 million compared with $195.6 million at December 31, 2010 and $121.4 million at March 31, 2010. 

President and Chief Operating Officer

Kirby also announced that Greg Binion has been elected President and Chief Operating Officer.  Prior to his election to his new position, Mr. Binion was the President of Kirby Inland Marine, Kirby's principal marine transportation subsidiary.  Bill Ivey was elected President of Kirby Inland Marine.  Mr. Ivey was formerly the Executive Vice President of Marketing for Kirby Inland Marine. 

Outlook

Commenting on the 2011 second quarter and full year market outlook and guidance, Mr. Pyne said, "Our earnings guidance for the 2011 second quarter is $.67 to $.77 per share, reflecting a 24% to 43% increase compared with $.54 per share reported for the 2010 second quarter.  This guidance range is larger than we typically give for a quarter.  However, we currently have high water and lock issues on the Ohio River with the Ohio River north of Paducah closed for inbound and outbound traffic.  These high water conditions will make their way into the Mississippi River, exacerbating current high water conditions on this waterway.  Based on what we know today, we anticipate high water conditions throughout the Mississippi River System for the majority of the second quarter, thereby creating significant operating inefficiencies.  On a positive note, our second quarter guidance reflects continued strong petrochemical and black oil products markets and continued modest increases in term and spot contract pricing.  Our second quarter guidance also assumes accretive earnings from our recently completed acquisitions."

Mr. Pyne further commented, "For the 2011 year, we raised our earnings guidance to $2.70 to $2.90 from previous guidance of $2.55 to $2.80 per share, compared with $2.15 earned in 2010.  Our high end guidance assumes continued strong petrochemical and black oil products markets with equipment utilization for these markets remaining in the low 90% range, and modest improvements in term and spot contract pricing.  Our low end guidance assumes some deterioration in equipment utilization levels back to high 80% levels with term and spot contract pricing improving modestly later in the year.  Both our 2011 year low end and high end guidance factors in an estimated $.02 to $.07 per share impact of the current high water and lock issues on our inland tank barge segment.  Our guidance also assumes our diesel engine services segment will continue to face challenges in its Gulf Coast oil services market, with some gradual improvement as the year progresses, and assumes stable marine and power generation markets.  In addition, our full year low and high end guidance assumes accretive earnings from United in the $.20 to $.25 per share range and assumes K-Sea's earnings contribution will be offset by one-time merger transaction fees of approximately $.05 per share.  Our 2011 capital spending guidance range is $220 to $230 million, including approximately $100 million for the construction of 40 new inland tank barges and three new inland towboats, and approximately $36 million in progress payments on the construction of a new offshore integrated dry-bulk barge and tugboat unit with an estimated total cost of $50 million."

April 28, 2011