Global shipping giant Maersk warned today that the coronavirus outbreak would hit earnings this year as the Danish firm missed earnings forecasts in the fourth quarter.
The company expects full earnings for 2020 of $5.5bn, down on analyst estimates of $6bn, largely due to the economic impact of the virus.
In a statement, Maersk said that it had suffered a “weak” start to the year due to the lengthy closures of Chinese factories over the lunar new year period:
“Weekly container vessel calls at key Chinese ports were significantly down compared to last year during the last weeks of January and the first weeks of February”, it added.
The outbreak is yet another blow to an industry which has been impacted by global trade tensions and a general economic slowdown over the last year.
However, speaking to Bloomberg, chief executive Soren Skou said that the decline in the number of new cases of the virus, which has now killed over 2,000 people, gave him hope that Maersk could rebound:
“It means, very well, we could be set for a peak within the next two weeks. If that were to be the case, then we would expect a very weak March and a sharp rebound in April. But there is still a lot of uncertainty out there”, he said.
He added that Maersk had had to cancel about 50 sailings from China in the past two weeks.
Shares in the shipping giant initally fell, before climbing back to a two per cent rise. Analysts said that the fluctuation was probably as a result of expectations of a one to three per cent growth in container demand this year.
Yesterday’s acquisition of US logistics firm Performance Team for $545m also helped sentiment, as the firm looks to increase earnings from its inland operations.