Still searching for profits, but not in shipwreck treasure

 Odyssey Marine

By Robert Trigaux - Tampa Bay Times

The company, long struggling for sustained profitability, has sold off or leveraged much of what it once owned.

Now it's scraping by, contracting out its underwater expertise for a Mediterranean commercial survey project, cutting costs and watching its stock fall, despite a recent 1-for-12 reverse stock split.

The company reports its latest quarterly revenues rose to $582,000 from a mere $115,000 in the first quarter of 2015. Odyssey squeezed out earnings of $85,000 in the quarter after suffering a $9.7 million loss a year earlier.

The company's chief business opportunity, a deal to dredge underwater deposits of phosphate in Mexican waters, was recently derailed after Mexico expressed environmental concerns. Odyssey Marine CEO Mark Gordon insists the so-called Don Diego project is not dead but will be restructured to try to meet Mexico's concerns.

"We have filed new documents with the Mexican authorities and we have hired additional environmental experts and other advisers to move the project forward," Gordon said. "We can assure you, that Odyssey and its partners remain committed to pursuing the Don Diego phosphate dredging project through ultimate approval."

This is not the Odyssey Marine of old, which routinely announced new deep-sea discoveries of centuries-old ships bearing gold coins and other artifacts. But finding such wrecks and winning the salvaging rights to such cargo from different (and litigious) nations making their own claims to the wrecks has proved difficult and expensive for Odyssey.

As losses mounted in recent years, the company shifted its strategy to more conventional underwater searches for natural deposits, while selling off much of its existing inventory of shipwreck treasure to sustain its operations.

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