Panalpina rebounded to profit in the first quarter from a year-earlier loss as record ocean container traffic more than outweighed lower air freight volumes.
The Switzerland-based global freight forwarder and logistics group booked a profit of 14.3 million francs ($15.2 million) against a 40.9 million franc ($43.4 million) loss in the first three months of 2012, as net forwarding revenue grew 4 percent to 1.6 billion francs ($1.7 billion).
Gross profit, after deducting freight rates, customs dues and security surcharges, grew 0.5 percent to 366 million francs ($388 million). Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization were down 11 percent at 30.1 million francs ($33.3 million).
“Our results for the first quarter of 2013 are in line with what we could expect in a continuously difficult market,” CEO Monika Ribar said. “Ocean freight and logistics continued to grow strongly while air freight volumes were still soft.”
Ocean freight traffic, measured in 20-foot-equivalent units, grew 7 percent, or more than three times the 2 percent increase in the global market, but the gross profit grew just 2 percent to $124 million.
Air freight volume decreased 3 percent from a year ago, compared with a 2 percent decline in the market. There were big variations between sectors, with oil and gas, healthcare and retail shipments posting double-digit growth while the high-tech, telecom and chemicals industries stayed weak. Profit retreated by 8 percent to $155.8 million.
The logistics unit’s revenues rose 13 percent, and it booked a gross profit of $108 million.
There were also major regional variations. Strong trans-Pacific trade boosted gross profit in the Americas by 5 percent to $119.8 million, while Asia-Pacific profits declined 8 percent to $76.3 million on weaker European imports. Increased European ocean freight exports helped lift Europe, Middle East and Africa profit 2 percent to $191.9 million.
Panalpina’s Swiss rival Kuehne + Nagel earlier reported its first quarter net income almost doubled to 134 million francs (US$144.1 million) from 68 million francs (about $73.1 million) a year earlier.