SHIPPING group AP Moller-Maersk warned of a steeper decline in global demand for shipping containers by sea this year, prompted by muted economic growth and customers reducing inventories.
The company, one of the world’s biggest container shippers with a market share of around 17 per cent, said it expects container volumes to fall by as much as 4 per cent.
It had previously forecast a decline of no more than 2.5 per cent.
Maersk transports goods for retailers and consumer companies such as Walmart, Nike and Unilever, and is seen as a barometer for global economic and corporate health.
CEO Vincent Clerc said he saw no sign that the destocking which has curbed global trade activity would end this year. It might happen in 2024, he said in a briefing with media.
Maersk posted record earnings last year due to high freight rates caused by strong consumer demand and pandemic-related logjams at ports.
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But freight rates have tumbled this year amid a global economic slowdown.
The company on Friday posted a slightly smaller than expected drop in second-quarter earnings and narrowed its profit forecast for the year.
“Maersk continue to expect muted global macroeconomic growth given continued pressure from higher interest rates and potential recessionary risk in Europe and the United States,” the company said.
Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (Ebitda) fell to US$2.91 billion in the quarter from US$10.3 billion a year earlier, beating analysts’ expectations of US$2.41 billion in a Refinitiv poll. Revenues fell 40 per cent to US$13 billion.
It now expects underlying Ebitda of between US$9.5 billion and US$11 billion, against previous predictions of between US$8 billion and US$11 billion.
The company said the number of containers it loaded onto ships between April and June fell by 6 per cent from a year earlier, while average freight rates halved.
“The second-quarter result contributed to a strong first half of the year, where we responded to sharp changes in market conditions prompted by destocking and subdued growth environment following the pandemic-fuelled years,” Clerc said. REUTERS