Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Business

Deep sea treasure hunter Odyssey Marine falls under further financial pressure

Tampa's Odyssey Marine Exploration knows all about the crushing deep-sea pressure associated with shipwreck treasure hunting. But can it survive the growing financial squeeze of a dwindling stock price, another round of renegotiated and heavily leveraged debts, selling off assets that include one of its corporate buildings, and heavy, ongoing quarterly losses?

Where to start? The company Friday morning reported quarterly earnings with revenue of $1.5 million, up from just $200,000 in the same quarter of 2014 — funds generated almost entirely by the sale of coins recovered earlier from the shipwreck SS Republic. Otherwise, Odyssey is generating little if any revenue at the moment.

Odyssey lost $4.6 million in the latest quarter, on top of a $7.4 million loss a year earlier. It has generated $2 million in revenue in 2015's first nine months while losing more than $20 million.

Odyssey's shares, which trade on the Nasdaq, hover near recent lows, closing at 421/2 cents on Friday. Its stock started falling below $1 early this year, triggering warnings from Nasdaq that it will be bounced from the trading floor if the company cannot improve its share value and meet Nasdaq compliance standards. Odyssey CEO Mark Gordon, who received $1.4 million in total compensation last year, says the company learned this week that it has won more time and has until March 7 to meet Nasdaq's criteria, which include the capacity of Odyssey shares to reach $1 for at least 30 days in a row.

Odyssey, of course, is not a traditional U.S. corporation that's supposed to show consistent growth in revenues and actually operate in the black. It's more like a corporate cat with nine lives, reanimating itself with new stock offerings and loans backed by its inventory of previously salvaged silver and gold coins.

The company's history is littered with highs and lows. Over the years, Odyssey has discovered exotic and historical shipwrecks, with some containing significant amounts of silver and gold coins and artifacts, even as the company often finds expensive legal entanglements with the home countries of those ships that make national claims on their treasures. In more recent years, Odyssey has expanded its expertise by searching for natural resources like phosphate minerals of potential value on the ocean floors.

Odyssey's regulatory filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission are thick with ongoing investment negotiations, with exotic-sounding but vague businesses like Minera del Norte and Penelope Mining LLC; and loans from Monaco Financial, Panama-based Oceanica Resources, investor Mako Resources, as well as mortgages from mainstream lenders like Ohio's Fifth Third Bank. The complexity of all these deals and potential deals seems bizarre for a business the stock market values at just $37 million and whose accountants routinely warn may lack the financial strength to continue.

What's the endgame for Odyssey? The company's apparent expertise in financial tightrope walking reminds me of the character Wimpy from the old Popeye comic strip and cartoon, who became famous for displaying his empty pockets and saying: "I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today."

Eventually, Tuesday always comes around.

Contact Robert Trigaux at [email protected] Follow @venturetampabay.

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Published: 05/22/18