Zim, the world’s 10th-largest ocean carrier, announced a big earnings beat for the fourth quarter and paid out a higher-than-expected dividend. However, it faces a tough year ahead. The company’s shares surged Monday on news of the earnings beat, jumping as much as 25% in morning trading. Shares gave back most of their gains by the end of the day, closing up 6.6%. Trading was heavy, at more than four times average volume.
The Israel-based shipping line reported net income of $417 million for Q4 2022, down 76% year on year and 64% versus the third quarter. Earnings per share came in at $3.44, well above the consensus forecast for $2.84. The company declared a Q4 2022 dividend of $6.40 per share. That brought full-year dividends to $16.94 per share, equating to $2.04 billion or 44% of net income.
Zim amassed a sizable cash cushion during the COVID-era boom that it can use as a buffer in the years ahead. The company now boasts zero net leverage and total liquidity of $4.6 billion.
Zim announced Monday that it expects full-year 2023 adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of between $1.8 billion and $2.2 billion. The midpoint of the range is down 73% from 2022 adjusted EBITDA but still over five times 2019 levels.
The company expects adjusted EBIT (excluding depreciation and amortization) of between $100 million and $500 million for this year — and net income comes in lower than adjusted EBIT. In full-year 2019, Zim posted adjusted EBIT of $149 million and a net loss of $13 million.
Thus, the guidance suggests there could be at least some loss-making quarters in 2023. Jefferies analyst Omar Nokta said the midpoint of Zim’s guidance range implies that the full year’s earnings would be “slightly positive.”
Rates slide 38% quarter on quarter
Zim’s earnings are heavily driven by its average freight rates. CEO Eli Glickman said during Monday’s conference call: “Q1 2022 was our best quarter ever. Since then, our quarterly results have declined sequentially, with Q4 2022 results dramatically reflecting the negative impact of the declining freight rates.”
The quarter-on-quarter slide in net income coincided with a drop in average freight rates to $4,244 per forty-foot equivalent unit, down 38% from the third quarter and 42% year on year.