During the fourth quarter, the Company continued to experience adverse operating conditions associated with the severe drought which began during the late second quarter of 2012. Commenting on operating conditions during the quarter, Mr. Knoy stated, "Operating conditions on the inland waterways gradually improved as we moved through the fourth quarter. We saw some much needed precipitation through the Ohio River Valley and Lower Mississippi River area at key points during that time. These improved weather patterns resulted in river conditions in these regions that allowed us to begin operating at near-normal barge drafts and tow sizes as we entered 2013. Conditions on the Mississippi River between St. Louis and Cairo, Illinois continued to disrupt operations in that area as well as at our St. Louis coal transfer terminal; however, we have seen these conditions improve as well with some late-January precipitation and today, operating conditions are back to normal. As a result, we believe that we will no longer experience drought-related operating constraints by the end of the first quarter of 2013 and the negative financial impact of these challenges will then be behind us."
Senior Secured Term Loan Offering Announced
The Company today announced that it has launched a financing whereby it intends to raise $650 million through a new senior secured term loan (the "Term Loan Financing") with Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Incorporated, Goldman Sachs & Co., UBS Investment Bank and Wells Fargo Securities as Joint Lead Arrangers and Joint-Bookrunners, together with PNC Capital Markets LLC, Royal Bank of Scotland and SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Inc. as Co-Managers. The Company also announced that, concurrent with the Term Loan Financing, it expects to increase the overall commitment of its asset-based revolving line of credit from $475 million to $550 million (together with the Term Loan Financing, the "Financing"). The net proceeds from the Financing, if consummated, are expected to be used to discharge and then subsequently redeem the outstanding principal amount of: (i) ACL I Corporation's 10.625%/11.375% Senior PIK Toggle Notes due 2016 at a redemption price of 105% of the principal amount and (ii) the Company's 12 1/2% Senior Secured Notes due 2017 at a redemption price of 106.25% of the principal amount, in each case, plus accrued and unpaid interest to the date of redemption. The proceeds for the redemption will be deposited with the trustee of each series of notes upon the closing of the Financing, at which time the respective obligations under the related indentures will be discharged. It is expected that the redemption payments will be received by the holders of ACL I Corporation's notes in mid-April and by the holders of the Company's notes in mid-July. In addition, proceeds of the Financing will fund a $207 million dividend to the shareholders of the Company's ultimate Parent, Finn Holding Corporation.
Commenting on the Company's outlook, Mr. Knoy said, "We continue to see opportunities in the energy sector, as North American oil production continues to rise. Tank barge capacity in the industry continues to be in tight supply, so we are confident that we will be able to quickly realize the earnings benefit of the new tank barges that will be completed by Jeffboat during the first half of 2013. We estimate that the strength of this market segment coupled with our significant investment in equipment to serve it will provide the Company with approximately $20 million in improved annual EBITDAR performance when fully deployed. North American production of natural gas will continue to support a pricing environment that will support growing chemical production in the US, further increasing the demand for tank barge capacity. While low natural gas prices will pressure domestic coal volumes as domestic utilities increase their use of gas powered generation, we believe that our exposure to this is mitigated as our sole domestic coal contract is dependent upon Powder River Basin coal, which is the most cost competitive coal versus natural gas. We do, however, remain cautious on our opportunities in the export coal market in the near term due to negative volume pressure resulting from high coal inventories in Europe and continued downward pricing pressure on open barge capacity in the US. A significant majority of our dry bulk cargo business is contracted, and as such, will be relatively stable, subject to some nearby variation as the US economy continues to gain its footing."
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