DFDS, the leading north European freight ferry and roll-on, roll-off shipping line, reported 2009 revenue and earnings fell steeply from a year ago on lower cargo volume, increased competition and weaker freight rates.
But the Danish company said it is poised for growth when the market recovers, driven by the $472 million acquisition of North Sea and Baltic operator Norfolkline from Copenhagen-based A.P. Moller-Maersk in December.
Pre-tax profit shrunk to $3.7 million from $40.5 million in 2008 and revenue was down almost a fifth at $1.2 billion against $1.5 billion.
Operating profit fell to $144 million from $183 million
"The result is among [the] best in class in our sector, and that is an important benchmark," said Chief Executive Officer Niels Smedegaard.
DFDS said freight rates remain under pressure but cargo volume has grown across most of its markets in the first two months of 2010.
"The performance of the freight activities, which was hardest hit by the recession, is generally expected to improve in 2010, while some deterioration is expected for the passenger activities, driven by higher bunker costs," the company said.
DFDS expects to book a pre-tax profit -- excluding Norfolkline -- of around $18.4 million in 2010.
"With the acquisition of Norfolkline … we took a decisive step towards our vision of creating a strong North European sea-based transport network," Smedegaard said.
Following the sale of Norfolkline, which still requires regulatory clearance, Maersk acquired a 31 percent stake in DFDS.
DFDS said it expects to close on the deal toward the end of the second quarter.
The merged carrier will operate the biggest freight and passenger route network in northern Europe, stretching from Russia to Ireland, with a fleet of over 70 ships and 6,200 employees.
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