A.P. Moller-Maersk boosted first quarter net profit 82 percent from a year ago to $1.2 billion, driven by higher container freight rates, growing shipping volume and rising oil prices.
The Danish shipping and energy group, which reported a record $5 billion profit in 2010, boosted overall revenue 10 percent to $14.5 billion in the three months to the end of March.
The container shipping operation that includes Maersk Line, the world’s largest carrier, and Safmarine reported a $438 million operating profit against the $169 million the operation earned in the first quarter a year ago.
Cargo volume grew 5 percent to 3.68 million 20-foot-equivalent units and average freight rates in the quarter across the company’s network were 2 percent higher at $2,908 per 40-foot container.
“Our businesses have performed very well, even as tanker rates have remained low and container rates have been decreasing during the period.” said Group CEO Nils S. Andersen.
Maersk said it expects freight rates to remain under pressure in the short term but sees a stronger market in the second half of the year.
But the company also forecast container shipping profit will fall back from the $2.6 billion the business earned last year, although earnings will remain “satisfactory.”
The group projects global container volume will grow 6 to 8 percent in 2011. The supply of new tonnage will match or grow more than container traffic, especially on Asia-Europe trade lanes.
APM Terminals, the terminal operating unit, increased profit to $139 million from $114 million a year ago, mainly from efficiency gains and cost cuts. Throughput rose 8 percent to 7.8 million TEUs.
Tankers, offshore and other shipping activities booked a profit of $213 million against $115 million in the first quarter of 2010.
The company also announced it is seeking to divest Maersk LNG which operates eight vessels as well as floating oil production, storage and offloading vessels.
Maersk said it expects the 2011 result will be lower than last year’s record profit, including the $700 million gain from the sale of its Netto supermarket chain in the UK.