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No indication of chemical tanker market improvement, says Stolt-Nielsen

Niels Stolt-Nielsen has stated there are no signs of improvement for the chemical tanker market, as utilisation and rates slipped at Stolt Tankers in the first quarter.

Stolt-Nielsen Limited reported a $38.7m profit for the first quarter, up from $18.6m in Q1 2015, and boosted by a $19.8m gain on freezing a pension plan.

Operating profits at Stolt Tankers were up to $19m for the quarter, almost doubling the $9.8m earned in Q1 2015. Lower bunker prices had a positive impact of $7.4m, maintenance and repair costs fell and the weakened Euro reduced administration and general expenses.

The sale of the Stolt Markland in Q4 2015 meant a reduction in operating days in the first quarter, and a freight rate drop of 2.6% and 1.4% lower utilisation conspired to drag revenues down to $278.2m from $307m in the preceding quarter.

“Looking ahead, we expect to continue to benefit from lower bunker fuel prices in the second quarter," commented ceo Niels Stolt-Nielsen. "But cargo volumes must increase if we are to see any material improvement in the chemical tanker market. We have yet to see any sustained increases to date and, unfortunately, there are no indications of any improvement in the near future.”

The group's terminal business saw a slight dip in utilisation as new capacity came online unfulfilled, and the termination of a contract in New Zealand pulled revenue down to $15.6m from $17.8m in Q4 2014.

Stolt-Nielsen's stake in Avance Gas Holdings increased to 14.5% as AGHL repurchased 939,039 of its own shares during the quarter.

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