New Trailer Bridge chief discusses outlook
Puerto Rico container carrier Trailer Bridge said it had third quarter net profit of $1.7 million compared to $34,444 in the same 2008 period.
Revenue was $30.3 million in the quarter ending Sept. 30 compared to $35.4 million in the year-earlier period.
Ivy Suter, who became Trailer Bridge's chief executive officer on Aug. 27, was asked to give her assessment of the company’s future during a quarterly earnings telephone call with investors by Bobby Melnick, a managing member of the New York investment company Terrier Partners.
Melnick complained that the company had been plagued by a “dysfunctional” board and has “been for sale, not for sale, maybe for sale who knows what’s it status is.” He was referencing plans in 2007 to sell the company by the family of the founder of the company, the late Malcom McLean, which held a 47.8 percent stake.
Those plans were dropped last year after a Justice Department investigation into price fixing in the Puerto Rico trade cast a pall over the entire Jones Act shipping industry. (Five executives from Horizon Line and Sea Star Line were given jail sentences earlier this year for their roles in what the government said was an antitrust conspiracy. No one has been charged with wrongdoing at Trailer Bridge.)
“I view myself and the board has told me I am the long-term CEO,” Sutter said. “The job assignment was to run the company in a profitable and sustainable way, to deliver sustainable earnings and generate sustainable cash, which we need to do so we can refinance our debt and eventually improve our balance sheet.
“I haven’t seen anything that I would say is in crisis. I do not see the company as needing to be restructured. What I did see was that the officer group needed to be streamlined, realigned and that reduces the overhead expenses,” she added. “I’ve seen people with very good skill sets in the company and operations work very well.”
She also praised the company’s flexible assets — it operates a fleet of barges that are capable of carrying stackable 53-foot containers, trailers and automobiles.
“I don’t view this business as shrinking ourselves to profitability,” she said. “Every participant in this trade has challenges in the sales area, but there is more we can do there,” she said, citing her own background in marketing and business development.
Short term, Sutter said the company faced a “game of inches;” longer term she mentioned the company could benefit from increased trade opportunities with Cuba.