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Golar LNG Partners Partnership (GMLP) Q1 2018 Earnings Conference Call Transcript


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Golar LNG Partners Partnership (NASDAQ: GMLP)
Q1 2018 Earnings Conference Call
May. 31, 2018 11:30 a.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:

Operator

Good day, everyone, and welcome to the Golar LNG Partners LP first-quarter 2018 conference call. Today's call is being recorded. At this time, I would like to turn the call over to Brian Tienzo. Please go ahead.

Brian Tienzo -- Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer

Thank you, moderator. Good afternoon and good morning to all of you, and welcome to Golar Partners' Q1 2018 results presentation. As the moderator said, my name is Brian Tienzo, CEO of Golar LNG Partners, and I'm joined here today by our head of investor relations, Stuart Buchanan. So let's start the presentation by jumping over to Slide 3 for the main highlights.

We report net income attributable to unitholders of $14.8 million and operating income of $26.1 million for Q1. As expected and due to cessation of various charters in the previous quarter and lower earnings from those vessels in this quarter, our distributable cash flow of $13.3 million and distribution coverage ratio of 0.32 are lower than the previous quarter. However, we were able to secure a 15-year contract for one of our two available FSRUs. We also initiated buyback of common units under a $25 million repurchase program.

By the end of the quarter, we had utilized $8 million of this facility. As you all have heard from the previous call of Golar LNG Limited, FLNG Hilli Episeyo sales delivered its first cargo and currently completing the second cargo of LNG. Progression on commissioning is going well, and commencement of acceptance testing with customers, Perenco and SNH, are also going well. We also declared unchanged distribution for Q1 of 57.75 cents per unit.Let's now turn over to Page 4 to go through the income statement.

As anticipated and previously flagged, total operating income -- total operating revenues decreased from $90.1 million in the fourth quarter to $74.2 million in the first quarter, mainly as the result of the following. The scheduled seasonal downtime for the FSRU Golar Igloo, which resulted in 55 days offline. Secondly, there were lower earnings for both Golar Maria and Golar Mazo whose long-term charters expired on end of November and end of December, respectively. And finally, having concluded its subcharter with Golar LNG on November 1, the LNG carrier, Golar Grand, traded for a full quarter at her reduced daily rate. Operating cost was slightly higher this quarter, but the decrease is in administration expenses has more than offset this.

Depreciation and amortization of $25.6 million was approximately $1 million lower than fourth quarter. And this reduction due to amortization and respect of the FSRUs Golar Freeze and Golar Spirit accounts for the most of the decrease. An increase in LIBOR rates and write-off of deferred charges in connection with the NR Satu refinancing contributed to higher net financial expenses. In other financial items, we recorded a gain of $9.6 million for the first quarter, mainly as a result of non-cash interest rate swap gains following an increase in two to three-year swap rates.

As a result of all of these factors, our Golar Partners' net income attributable to unitholders of $14.8 million and operating income of $26.1 million for the first-quarter 2018 are lower as compared to $25.4 million of net income and $40.5 million of operating income versus the fourth quarter of 2017. Let's turn now to Page 5 for the balance sheet assets. There aren't really many material movements here. Of course, the cash and cash equivalents decreased to $142 million by the end of the quarter, following a repayment of $75 million against our revolving credit facility.

This amount remains available for us for redrawing in the event that we needed it. And except for the ongoing debt repayments, there were no other material items that affected cash in the quarter.Going over to Page 6 on balance sheet liabilities. At the end of the quarter, our net debt was approximately $1.08 billion. This quarter's net debt to EBITDA ratio of 5.2 is high as this is calculated using 1Q EBITDA as a basis for annualization.

And of course, EBITDA this quarter was negatively affected by two months worth of no earnings due to the season as well as lower earnings on the other vessels. You'll also note that at the end of the quarter, the percentage debt swap to fixed rate was at 132%. We are overhedged during this period as we entered into interest rate swaps in anticipation of hedging 50% of the Hilli debt. As such, once Train 1 of Hilli is dropped, and consequently, we are exposed to half of its debt, we expect the fixed growth ratio to revert to levels close to 100%.

Turning over now to Slide 7 to go through the distributable cash flow. As expected, following the cessation of the Golar Mazo and Golar Maria charters, the end of the Golar brand charter to Golar LNG Limited and one month of regas season for Golar Igloo, all happening during the fourth quarter, but most impact in the first quarter, distributable cash flow was down to $13.3 million. This has also negatively impacted our distribution coverage, which was down to 0.32. However, we expect second-quarter distributable cash flow and coverage to improve, particularly with four-quarters earnings from the Igloo.

Looking forward, while we expect distribution coverage for the rest of the year, which we expect will be better than first quarter's, it is unlikely to exceed one. Of course, coverage levels in the run-up to this transition phase were kept deliberately high in anticipation of this, such that the life-to-date ratio of distribution coverage is currently sitting at 1.13, indicating that, on average, our distributable cash flow to date remains above our distribution paid. You will note that the partnership has $218 million of cash in on drawing credit facilities available to investment growth opportunities into paying quarterly distributions. Sustainability of the current distribution will be contingent on a number of factors, including the accretive use of available cash, the timely closing of the Hilli Episeyo drop-down, commencement of the Atlantic FSRU charter, conclusion of FSRU contract and the discussion for the redeployment of our converted LNG carrier, the charter status and anticipated earnings from FSRU Igloo after first-quarter 2019, and of course, developments in the shipping market.

Further to that, we are also looking at debt restructuring to better match the remaining life of our assets. Achieving this will augment our liquidity and help our decision on the level of distributions going forward. Turning over now to Page 8, looking at the revenue breakdown and backlog. So as you can see, our FSRU assets continued to contribute the most toward the backlog with $1.6 billion.

Once dropped down, FLNG Hilli Episeyo's contribution will be approximately $800 million, and it also provide diversification and asset base for the partnership's fleet. Shipping contribution is currently approximate $200 million. So with revenue backlog currently set at $2.6 billion, our earnings potential remains robust. Turning over to Page 9.

As you all have heard from the Golar LNG call, the Hilli Episeyo is now undergoing sufficient acceptance testing, with an expectation that full operations will commence in the coming days. Subsequent to successful acceptance testing, Golar intends to utilize the debt facility associated with Hilli Episeyo. This will contribute approximate $320 million of additional liquidity to Golar. And closing the dropdown is expected to follow shortly thereafter.Just a quick reminder that the purchase price for our initial interest was $658 million, less the 50% of the net lease obligation, which is equivalent to about $480 million.

And after applying the $107 million Tundra Put sale proceeds and the $70 million deposit paid to Golar in August, a balancing payment of approximately $1 million will be payable to Golar upon closing. Consequently to this acquisition, the partnership will benefit from approximately $82 million of EBITDA from Episeyo's operations. Let's now go over to Slide 10 for a shipping update. So we witnessed steady rates and good chartering activity into the new year, supported by a strong underlying demand for LNG that helped sustain prices and prolonged arbitrage opportunities through to February.

The high ton miles promoted associated with these activities promoted rates up to $85,000 per day during January. However, as expected, this was followed by the seasonal softening that commenced early March, such that by early, rates had declined to around $45,000 per day. Further delays to the start-up of a US Cove Point facility and production interruptions at the Papua New Guinea facility further emphasized the negative impact of the seasonality. However, both those two facilities are now producing and along with scheduled start-ups at Wheatstone, Ichthys, trains 2 and 3 due to start by the end of the year, rates have started to improve once again and the levels already an improvement year on year.

Furthermore, consensus points to continued improvement in both rates and utilization. And in anticipation of this, Mazo has been placed only in warm-up, ready for activation, while the Maria is currently engaged loading a cargo from Hilli. Therefore, we remain positive of the impact of shipping from the second half of this year onwards. Turning over to Slide 11 for an FSRU update.

We continued to be positively surprised by the resilience of interest for midsized FSRUs. Projects requiring these vessels are now starting to crystallize, and this was evidenced by the 15-year charter we recently secured for Golar Freeze or Golar Spirit-sized FSRU. Progress in securing another FSRU contract is also developing well in the background. Of course, the Golar Nanook represents a 2020 acquisition potential.

And while it remains sometime in the future, its 25-year $41 million EBITDA contract makes it a very compelling target.Turning over to Slide 12. So in summary then, the partnership continues to operate its assets efficiently, which is particularly important in LNG market that is fast-growing. With a revenue backlog of $2.6 billion and potential future acquisition targets in the near term, Golar Partners remains a compelling investment story. However, investors should be aware that there is a near-term transition phase to navigate through.

And the conclusion of key events already highlighted during this presentation will help us evaluate the optimum long-term distribution levels. And on that note, I now hand back the presentation to the moderator for the Q&A session.

Operator

[Operator instructions] We'll take our first question from Jon Chappell with Evercore.

Jon Chappell -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

Thank you. Good afternoon, Brian.

Brian Tienzo -- Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer

Hi, Jon.

Jon Chappell -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

So I think the commentary about the optimum long-term distribution level is relatively new, although quite understandable. Some of the things you lay out is getting there seemingly slam dunks the timely closing of the Hilli dropdown in June, the Atlantic FSRU contract in the back half of this year, and of course, the market for the LNG ships is going to be the market. So I guess the question is, you're taking 50% of the Hilli. Upon customer acceptance, there is 100% of trains one and two.

Is it realistic to think that you could take the other 50% of Hilli in the second half of this year and help bridge that distribution coverage ratio gap as soon the beginning of next year?

Brian Tienzo -- Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer

So, I think just to comment on your initial point. I think if you look back at previous announcements we made, I think we've highlighted that these things were coming. And to some extent, they shouldn't necessarily be a surprise to investors. And to your question, I think, certainly, we have the funding -- the requisite funding to buy parts of Hilli 2.

And certainly, that's an attractive investment for us. Clearly, the amount of efforts being put into making sure that the acceptance of Hilli and getting that vessel operational has been where the most efforts are. And of course, once the Hilli is properly operational, certainly that is -- the attention will be put to to try and see what else we can do with regards he augmenting the coverage and help the earnings in the MLP.

Jon Chappell -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

And the $218 million -- I think $218 million you said that is what the money you have to invest in other assets. And if we look at the structure of the dropdown, the first 50% of Hilli, obviously, you had the Tundra Put there, which is $107 million. But even if we added that back, because it's not there anymore, $170-plus million, it seems that you have that covered. So what would kind of be the holdup to preclude you from taking down the other 50%? Because it seems that that's the quick fix although a very good long-term quick fix to getting you back to that one times.

Brian Tienzo -- Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer

As I said, I think the reason the holdup as such, I think, clearly -- as mentioned earlier, clearly, everyone's attention is making sure that Hilli is up and running before we started to put loads of efforts in getting train 2 or a portion of train 2, whatever that might be. It is -- if you look at the press release, I mean, clearly, there is - we've sounded out that we have the funds to be able to deploy. And of course, train 2, and other investments, and other projects that we have in the pipeline will be funded from that availability of cash.

Jon Chappell -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

OK. So just as we think about the pipeline. Train 1 in June, potentially train 2 at some point in the next 6 to 9 months, and obviously, the Nanook starts up in January 2020. Is 2019 kind of a barren area? Or is anything like such as train 3 where you could have another dropdown capability next year?

Brian Tienzo -- Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer

Well, if you listened to the discussions that we had earlier on Golar LNG, clearly, train 3 is a benefit to all parties. And I'm sure that will be the same for Golar LNG part as well. It has a very positive bearing all around. And if that materializes very soon, then I think, to some extent, that helps the decision on what proportion, if any, of train 2 we go ahead with.

And clearly, that also makes the decision from Golar LNG's perspective, given the earnings that a potential train 3 activation could help Golar LNG. Let's not forget, there are other factors in play here. Of course, train 2 is a fantastic opportunity to get the distribution coverage back to some normality. There are other assets that we have which we are watching carefully as to the development and how we can make good use of those.

We have the Maria, the Golar Mazo carriers which hopefully will start to contribute to earnings in the second half of this year when we start seeing the shipping market improve. The Golar Spirit and the Golar Freeze, medium-sized FSRUs, as I said, we're seeing some very positive momentum for those kind of vessels. And one of those will definitely go to service the Jamaican FSRU requirements, but we also have the Golar Igloo charter which could potentially end by Q1 2019. And we expect that will become more of a tender competition.

Of course, the fact that we have record there and discussions with the current -- the incumbent charter suggests that they have a very good outperformance, that gives us, hopefully, a bit of a competitive edge, but it's still a risk nonetheless.

Jon Chappell -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

OK. I understand. Thanks a lot, Brian.

Operator

[Operator instructions] We'll take our next questions from Hillary Cacanando with Wells Fargo.

Hillary Cacanando -- Wells Fargo Securities, LLC -- Analyst

Hi, Brian. Thank you for taking my questions. I know Golar Maria lifted the second cargo from the Hilli. Is Maria on a multi-month or a multi-quarter charter to get some or was that just like a one-time spot charter?

Brian Tienzo -- Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer

So the Golar Maria is currently in spot charter. And of course, as far as where the vessel goes, it's really dependent on the charter's wishes on that. I mean it's good that she's able to contribute again to another Golar asset, but it's no a long-term charter.

Hillary Cacanando -- Wells Fargo Securities, LLC -- Analyst

OK. Got you. And then what's the status of - I know Maria was being considered to be converted to an FSRU, what's the status of that? And what are you factoring in to consider whether it should be an FSRU or a carrier?

Brian Tienzo -- Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer

Well, I think we alluded to progress being made as far as another FSRU conversion is concerned. That remains the case. We continued to develop that. And as far as, as far as the candidate for such a conversion, that's yet to be announced.

But clearly, it's an interesting proposition for the partnership.

Hillary Cacanando -- Wells Fargo Securities, LLC -- Analyst

OK. And what would it take for Golar Mazo to come out of temporary layup? Was it because there was just lack of opportunities out there in deciding to put that into...

Brian Tienzo -- Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer

Yes. I mean, to some extent, we expected the seasonal downturn in shipping rates. And in preparation of that, we put the Mazo into warm layer just to save on some operating costs and also on fuel consumption. What it does mean though is because the vessel is in a warm layer is we can take out of that layer very quickly in anticipation of a much better market during the second half of this year.

Hillary Cacanando -- Wells Fargo Securities, LLC -- Analyst

Well, that's great. Well, thank you. Thank you so much. That's it for me.

Operator

We'll go next to Randy Giveans with Jefferies.

Randy Giveans -- Jefferies -- Analyst

Thanks, operator. So yes, a quick question there. I think you touched on this. So looking at possible charters with the Maria or even a Mazo for that Hilli, is there something you're in discussions with, or is that solely kind of spot vessels for the foreseeable future?

Brian Tienzo -- Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer

Randy, they're currently in spot. What I gather is that the long-term requirement of the offtaker from the Hilli is already set. I think that's - the chartering -- sorry, the fixing of those vessels actually happened not very long after we signed the agreement with Perenco. So to some extent, the two vessels, they will have some opportunities to play in the spot market.

We obviously want them to be in long-term charters. But I think the opportunity to put them into long-term charter that collects cargo from the Hilli is no longer there.

Randy Giveans -- Jefferies -- Analyst

Got it. OK. And then, separately, it looks like you raised $14 million or so in 1Q via the ATM and then another or maybe -- yes, $14 million in so far today in the first quarter. So how much is remaining under that ATM authorization? Is it like $115 million? And what is the use of proceeds for those ATM offerings?

Brian Tienzo -- Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer

So we -- yes, that's right. So we raised approximately $17 million of ATM. That was, to some extent, anticipate -- well, a couple of things. One, to augment cash flow, but also in anticipation of the various projects that we see ahead of us.

Of course, on the current price we are today, it's unlikely that we would tap that. But it's just there that in the event we see a good opportunity, not in the current share price, of course. But in the event we see good opportunity, it just allows us to very quickly move and help out in liquidity.

Randy Giveans -- Jefferies -- Analyst

OK. And then at the same time, if I'm reading this right, you purchased 439,000 units at a cost of $8 million. So why is that? And then should we expect more ATM offerings or more unit repurchases in the coming months?

Brian Tienzo -- Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer

Well, I think, to some extent, this serve two purposes. We initiated the repurchase program at the beginning of March. We believe that share price at the time was undervalued. The board approved a $25 million repurchase facility, $8 million of which has now been used.

We continued to have that facility if we wanted to tap it. So we have the optionality to repurchase additional units if we wanted to at a given price, but at the same time, the ATM is also there. It allows us to reissue some units, obviously, at a much better pricing than where we are today.

Randy Giveans -- Jefferies -- Analyst

Got it. So it looks like after today, you're still below that price that your most recent repurchases were made at, so you could maybe infer additional repurchases.

Brian Tienzo -- Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer

We're not quite there yet, I mean but we're verging on a -- we're not quite there yet.

Randy Giveans -- Jefferies -- Analyst

Got it. All right. Well, that's it for me. Thanks again.

Brian Tienzo -- Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Randy.

Operator

And we'll go next to Fotis Giannakoulis with Morgan Stanley.

Fotis Giannakoulis -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Yes. Hi, guys. I want to ask you a little bit potential opportunities for new FSRU contracts. Where do you think that which projects right now they are out for tendering? And if you can tell us what the utilization rates of different projects around the world at this point?

Brian Tienzo -- Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer

So I mean, Fotis, we know there are tendering and FSRU interests in Brazil. For example, Pakistan, Croatia, Bangladesh, Lebanon, to name a few. So there's plenty of sort of FSRU interests out there. I think if you count them all together, you're probably talking more than 30.

But I think, clearly, there is probably six or seven of those that are real, and hopefully, we will see crystallize in the near term. As far as utilization is concerned, it's very difficult to know. I mean for our vessels, the vast majority of vessels are utilized well and operating well, close to 100% utilization. And of course, the uptime is very high as well.

So it just depends. Some of those FSRUs are for security needs. They may not necessarily be operating at all for any given time, but they are there for security of supply.

Fotis Giannakoulis -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

And Brian, can you give us an idea? What kind of durations are we talking? We remember that this project used to be 15, 20-year contracts. We saw this three-year contract today from Hawk. Has the duration changed in this six, seven projects that you think they are imminent?

Brian Tienzo -- Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer

No, I don't think so. I think you will find that as more people want to be contributive to FSRUs, the length of -- the tenor of the charters that we're seeing remain a variation from three years to 15 years to 20 years, in fact. And so we -- the vast majority of our contracts when we signed them up were sort of on average about 10 years. There are some of those contracts starting to become due for retendering or extension now.

And it hasn't really changed. I think we are seeing some very good sort of tenor in terms of chartering out there, but there are also ones which really are pretty -- fairly short. I think consensus is that there is more competition, and as a result, charterers can be more picky with the tenor that they're willing to sign up to.

Fotis Giannakoulis -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Thank you very much, Brian.

Brian Tienzo -- Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Fotis.

Operator

And with no further questions in the queue, I would like to turn the call back over to management with any additional or closing remarks.

Brian Tienzo -- Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer

Thank you, moderator, and thank you to all the participants. I look forward to speaking to you again in the next quarter. Thank you and goodbye.

Operator

[Operator signoff]

Duration: 20 minutes

Call Participants:

Brian Tienzo -- Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer

Stuart Buchanan  -- Head of Investor Relations

Jon Chappell -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

Hillary Cacanando -- Wells Fargo Securities, LLC -- Analyst

Randy Giveans -- Jefferies -- Analyst

Fotis Giannakoulis -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

More GMLP analysis

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This article appears in: Personal Finance , Stocks
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