Shipping group Maersk has warned of slowing demand for transport and logistics as a global recession looms and cut its forecast for container demand this year, even as it beat third-quarter earnings expectations.
"It is clear that freight rates have peaked and started to normalise during the quarter, driven by both decreasing demand and easing of supply chain congestion," chief executive Soren Skou said in a statement.
The Copenhagen-based company, one of the world's biggest container shippers with a market share of around 17%, is often seen as a barometer of global trade.
"With the war in Ukraine, an energy crisis in Europe, high inflation, and a looming global recession there are plenty of dark clouds on the horizon," Skou said.
Global Container Demand
Maersk now sees global container demand falling by 2% to 4% this year, citing an unfolding economic slowdown expected to continue into 2023. Its previous guidance was for an outcome towards the lower end of a range of minus 1% to plus 1%.
Freight rates surged in step with higher consumer demand during the pandemic, resulting in congested ports and delays, and while those rates have since come down, containers still cost more to ship than before the pandemic.
Skou told Reuters in September he expected ocean freight volumes to be flat or lower this year, though congestion persists in ports and global supply chains.
Maersk's underlying earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) rose to $10.86 billion (€10.99 billon) in the June-September period from $6.94 billion (€7.02 billion) a year ago, above the $9.78 billion forecast by analysts in a poll gathered by the company.
Revenues climbed 37% to $22.77 billion (€23.05 billion).
The company repeated it expects underlying EBITDA of around $37 billion this year.
Maersk shares have dropped 35% since hitting a record high of DKK 24,920 on January 13.