Miercoles 21 de Marzo del 2018

Maersk slumps to only its second annual loss in seven decades

Danish group struggles with crises in container shipping and energy industries

AP Moller-Maersk on Wednesday unveiled one of the biggest losses in Danish corporate history as the conglomerate suffered from a weak container shipping industry and massive writedowns on its oil businesses last year.

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Shares in Maersk fell as much as 7 per cent on Wednesday as it reported only its second annual loss in seven decades and halved its dividend to try to protect its investment grade credit rating.

Maersk recorded a net loss of $1.9bn for 2016, compared with analysts’ expectations of a $960m profit, as it booked impairments of $2.7bn on its oil rig and supply services units.

“It is not by any stretch of the imagination a satisfactory result,” Soren Skou, chief executive, told the Financial Times.

Maersk is in the middle of breaking itself up, centring the group once again around the world’s largest container shipping business, Maersk Line, while jettisoning its oil-related businesses.

But Maersk Line suffered a tough end to 2016, slipping to a loss in the fourth quarter and for the year as a whole in spite of a rebound in freight rates from record lows. It made a loss of $376m in 2016 compared with a profit of $1.3bn one year earlier.

Mr Skou said Maersk Line, which is in the middle of buying German rival Hamburg Sud, won market share from competitors throughout the year and was well placed to benefit from an anticipated recovery in the container shipping industry. He forecast an improvement of at least $1bn in Maersk Line’s profit this year.

But the guidance for the group disappointed some investors, with Maersk saying merely that it would achieve higher underlying profit than the $711m it posted in 2016. Analysts at Jefferies had forecast 2017 underlying profit of $2.6bn and a stable dividend.

Maersk’s net loss for 2016 tops the previous worst performance among Denmark’s non-financial companies. This was Dong Energy’s DKr12.1bn ($1.7bn) loss in 2015.

Maersk’s shares fell 5 per cent to DKr11,040 on Wednesday, erasing their gains for the year so far.

Maersk has been buffeted by twin crises, with the container shipping industry suffering from weak global trade and overcapacity while its oil businesses were hit by lower crude prices.

As a result, the group decided last autumn to split itself up, saying it would spin off its four energy businesses in the next two years.

Mr Skou said of the impairments: “It is really in recognition that the outlook for these businesses is really poor. There is very little activity, and lots of drilling rigs or supply ships that are laid up.”


He argued the outlook for the container shipping industry was slowly improving, with the first signs of rational behaviour for a long time.

“The fourth quarter was the first quarter since 2010 where demand grew faster than supply,” he said, adding that there have also been almost no new orders for ships since the third quarter of 2015.

Container shipping has also been rocked by the bankruptcy of South Korea’s Hanjin Shipping last year and a wave of consolidation that would see almost half of the industry’s biggest groups disappear. “Consolidation is changing the industry,” said Mr Skou.

He added that the rhetoric coming out of the new administration in the US contained both positives and negatives.

President Donald Trump’s commitment to lowering taxes and boosting infrastructure spending would help container shipping groups, but he added a potential trade war with China would be a “hard blow” for the industry.

Maersk said separately Michael Pram Rasmussen, its chairman, would step down and be replaced by Jim Hagemann Snabe, the former chief executive of SAP who is also tipped to become chairman of Siemens, the German conglomerate.

Fuente: Financial Times

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