Maersk lifts forecast after posting profit

Marion Dakers
MOLLER-MAERSK, the shipping and oil conglomerate, raised its outlook for the year yesterday after swinging back into half-year profit, on the back of increased volumes and a sharp rise in the price of crude oil.

The Danish group said it now stands to make in excess of $4bn (£2.6bn) after tax in 2010, following a pre-tax profit of $4.8bn in the six months to July.

An eight per cent surge in Asian exports to Europe, as well as a pick-up in transatlantic routes, further boosted profits for the bellwether transportation group, which posted a pre-tax loss of $1.31bn last year.

And air freight revenues rose 46 per cent from what the firm said were low levels, in a sign international trade is picking up pace.

However, chief executive Nils Smedegaard Andersen sounded a note of caution over the strength of the recovery. “The market has normalised in terms of both demand and capacity, but the question remains if we’ll see consumption pick up in Europe and the US to drive the market. That hasn’t changed for the past three quarters,” he said yesterday.

Maersk said its drilling business still faces “considerable uncertainty”, but posted a pre-tax profit of $3bn on oil operations thanks to a 48 per cent rise in the price of Brent crude.

The company also hopes to make $796m from its sale of its UK branches of Netto to Asda, expected to close later this year.