Maersk hikes profit guidance after solid nine-month figures

City A.M. Reporter
Shipping and oil group AP Moller-Maersk hiked its 2010 profit forecast to around $5bn (£3.1bn) as it posted forecast-beating profits for nine months, driven by cost cuts and higher freight rates and oil prices.

The upgrade from the previous guidance for a full-year net result exceeding $4bn stemmed mainly from higher rates for container shipping and efficiency improvements, the group said.

Maersk’s report followed strong third-quarter results from Asian rivals such as China COSCO and Neptune Orient Lines (NOL) , pointing to a sustained recovery from a dismal 2009 for shipping as global trade regains momentum. Net profit at the group, which owns the world’s biggest container shipping company Maersk Line, totalled 23.8bn Danish crowns ($4.4bn) in January-September against losses of $3.9bn in the same period last year.

The result beat an average expectation of a profit of 21.4bn crowns in a poll of analysts whose estimates ranged from 19.9bn to 22.9bn crowns.

Cheuvreux analyst Joakim Ahlberg called the third-quarter results “very solid” and said he would make minor increases to earnings estimates on the back of the report.

Average freight rates, including bunker surcharges, were up 34 per cent in the nine months to end-September from the same period last year, and volumes seven per cent higher, Maersk said. Chief executive Nils Smedegaard Andersen said the improved competitiveness through cost savings was “a very big factor” driving the results.