Shipping group A.P. Moller-Maersk has said that record-high freight rates boosted quarterly earnings in its third quarter, despite lower container volumes due to congestion at ports.
The coronavirus pandemic has prompted a shortage of container ships and logjams at ports at a time of high consumer spending, pushing the cost of transporting freight to record levels.
Maersk said its main Ocean business is now expected to grow by an amount below that of global container demand, which is seen at 7% to 9% in 2021 versus previous guidance of 6% to 8%.
'Exceptional Market Situation'
“In the ongoing exceptional market situation, with high demand in the US and global disruptions to the supply chains, we continued to increase capacity and expand our offerings to keep cargo moving for our customers," said Søren Skou, CEO of A.P. Møller - Mærsk.
"Our integrator strategy is key to supporting our customers’ end to end logistics needs by designing a more stable Ocean business, strongly growing our logistics offering and relying on automated and efficient terminals."
Senator International Acquisition
Maersk also announced plans to buy freight-forwarder Senator International, whose largest business is within air freight, along with two Boeing aircraft for an enterprise value of around $644 million (€555 million).
Maersk's ongoing transformation from a container shipping giant into an integrated logistics company has accelerated following its strong performance during the pandemic.
It said final third-quarter earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) tripled to $6.9 billion (€5.9 billion) compared with a preliminary figure of close to $7 billion issued on September 16, when the company also lifted its 2021 forecasts.
It also said it would extend its existing share buy-back programme, with Skou noting, "Given the significant progress of our transformation into a logistics integrator and the continued commitment to shareholder returns, the board of directors has decided to extend the current share buy-back programme by an additional $5 billion over the years 2024 and 2025.”
In August, the group announced the acquisition of two e-commerce firms, Visible Supply Chain Management and B2C Europe, as it seeks to transform into an integrated logistics business.