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Maersk beats profit forecasts but warns of uncertainty

Copenhagen

AP Moller-Maersk A/S delivered an operating profit in the second quarter that beat analyst estimates, driving its shares higher, as the world's largest shipping line reassured investors it can keep its outlook despite an uncertain trade environment.

Shares in Copenhagen-based Maersk jumped as much as 7.2 per cent when trading started in the Danish capital. The country's benchmark index of stocks gained 1 per cent.

The company, which controls a fifth of the globe's container fleet, reported an operating profit, or Ebitda, of US$1.36 billion, beating the average analyst estimate of US$1.24 billion. Maersk said synergies of US$1 billion from combining its container transport activities came sooner than expected, which drove profit in the quarter.

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Maersk kept its guidance for 2019, but chief executive officer Soren Skou said that the "macro environment continues to be subject to considerable uncertainties", according to a statement on Thursday.

The company said that global container trade grew by around 2 per cent in the quarter from a year earlier, which is in line with its expected full-year growth of 1-3 per cent. The development shows that the "soft momentum" continued from the first quarter, "reflecting a broad-based slowdown in all the main economies. Negative effects from escalating trade restrictions also weighed on trade growth," Maersk said.

What Maersk says about tariffs: "The previous trade restrictions, imposed during 2018 and mainly led by the US and China, have reduced bilateral trade between the two countries, and it also led to shifts in trade structures. So far, US importers have shifted imports away from China to other countries such as Vietnam, Korea, Thailand, India and Mexico. The impact of the newly imposed tariff hike is expected to be significant for the US-China bilateral trade and could in isolation remove up to 0.5 per cent of global container demand in 2019 and 2020, and when US tariffs on additional US$300 billion is implemented later in the year, it could result in a reduction of up to 1 per cent in 2020." BLOOMBERG