Matson reports record first quarter earnings

MAY 5, 2015 — Matson, Inc. (NYSE: MATX) reported record net income of $25.0 million, or $0.57 per diluted share for the quarter ended March 31, 2015 compared with $3.4 million, or $0.08 per diluted share for the 2014 equivalent quarter. Consolidated revenue for the first quarter 2015 was $398.2 million compared with $392.5 million reported for the first quarter 2014.

The results beat analysts' expectations. The average estimate of five analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of 55 cents per share

Matt Cox, Matson's President and Chief Executive Officer, commented, "As expected, Matson carried strong momentum into the first quarter of 2015. Performance improved across all lines of business, led by continued levels of exceptional demand for our expedited China service, modest yield improvements in Hawaii and Guam, and further improvements in Logistics operations and SSAT.  In addition, lower bunker fuel prices positively impacted our results, primarily due to timing differences as fuel surcharge collections outpaced fuel expenditures.  Our businesses are performing well and continue to generate substantial cash flow that, combined with our strong balance sheet, provides ample capacity to close our pending Alaska acquisition, fund new vessel construction commitments, and comfortably sustain our dividend.

"Mr. Cox added, "We continue to be encouraged by our prospects in Hawaii, and in a strengthening broader economy that will produce volume growth in our Jones Act markets and in Logistics. However, with new vessel capacity expected to enter our core Hawaii market in the second quarter of this year, we expect our Hawaii container volume for the year to be relatively flat with 2014. Our premium expedited service offering from China is expected to remain in high demand and we anticipate modest profit at SSAT.  Overall, we remain well positioned to deliver 2015 operating results moderately higher than those we achieved in 2014."

2015 Outlook

Matson expects to close the pending transaction with Horizon Lines, Inc. by the end of the second quarter.  However, the closing remains dependent upon a number of conditions, including the closing of Pasha's acquisition of Horizon's Hawaii business.  Matson's 2015 outlook continues to exclude any future effects of the pending transaction. 

Assuming the pending transaction closes by the end of the second quarter, the company expects to update its outlook for the effects of the acquisition during its second quarter 2015 earnings conference call, currently scheduled for early August 2015.

Ocean Transportation:  Matson believes that the Hawaii economy is in a multi-year recovery and is anticipating modest market growth in the trade in 2015.  However, containership capacity is projected to increase in the second quarter of 2015 as a competitor has announced plans to launch an additional new vessel into the trade in May.  As a result, the company expects its 2015 Hawaii container volume to approximate the 2014 level.

During the first quarter 2015, Matson continued to realize significantly higher freight rates in its China trade, reflecting the high demand for its expedited transpacific service, which was amplified by cargo availability delays experienced by other ocean carriers associated with port congestion on the U.S. West Coast.  International vessel overcapacity is expected to continue in 2015 with vessel deliveries outpacing demand growth. 

Matson expects strong demand for its expedited service to continue in 2015 resulting in high vessel utilization levels and premium freight rates. In 2015, Matson expects market growth in Guam to result in flat to modestly higher container volume compared to 2014, assuming no new competitors enter the market.

Notwithstanding the productivity challenges resulting from the port congestion on the U.S. West Coast, Matson expects modest profit at its terminal joint venture, SSAT, for 2015. For the full year 2015, Ocean Transportation operating income is expected to be moderately higher than 2014.

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