N.C. Ports experienced a quick and full recovery after the bankruptcy of Hanjin Shipping Co., its largest customer, according to a March report by Fitch Ratings.
Increased shipping lines that have led to increased throughput at the ports were some of the key drivers cited as Fitch Ratings upgraded
N.C. Ports’ $38.2 million senior lien port facilities revenue bonds, series 2010A&B, to A- from BBB+, according to a news release.
The Fitch Rating Outlook was revised to "stable," from "positive," the report stated.
Alabama State Ports Authority (A-/negative) and Jacksonville Port Authority in Jacksonville, Florida, (A/stable) are the two closest peers to N.C. Ports, according to the report.
“This is a significant achievement to obtain this ratings improvement from Fitch. First it demonstrates the financial world’s confidence that we are running our business better and smarter. This ratings increase also clearly shows that Fitch sees a path of improvement and long-term viability for N.C. Ports as we continue to grow and be an economic catalyst for our state," N.C. Ports Executive Director Paul J. Cozza said.
Increased volume is a trend “that is expected to continue over the near term,” according to the report. Additional benefits mentioned were the addition of port infrastructure.
The report said that the upgrade reflects N.C. Ports’ "sustainable and robust financial metrics, in addition to operating resiliency as evidence by a quick and full recovery after the loss of its largest customer, and diversification in carriers and volume.”
According to the credit update in the report, financial performance dipped in fiscal 2017, “due to the loss in volume associated with the Sept 2016 (fiscal 2017) Hanjin bankruptcy." Fitch reported revenues were down 7.4 percent in fiscal 2017 as compared to fiscal 2016.
“At the time of bankruptcy, the port had approximately $813,000 in Hanjin receivables, which was fully reserved as a bad debt expense . . . Favorably, the receivables and other costs associated with the Hanjin bankruptcy were almost completely offset with lease box revenues and settlements,” stated the report.
The report forecasts full fiscal year 2018 revenues of $48 million, an increase of 13 percent, driven by the additional shipping lines, Queen City Express intermodal rail service and growth in wood pellet volumes from the Enviva facility terminal.
N.C. Ports’ revenue risk volume was rated at “midrange,” revised from “weaker,” according to the report.