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Maersk shares reel as trade war fears buffet outlook


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COPENHAGEN, AFP: Shares in the world’s leading container shipping group, AP Moeller-Maersk, plummeted last week after the Danish firm made a weaker than expected profit forecast citing uncertainty over the US-China trade war. 

The company’s stocks fell more than 10% to 8.4 kroner ($ 1.2, ¤1.1) on the Copenhagen Stock Exchange in midday trading following the announcement. 

The firm however said it had been back in the black last year, with a net profit of $ 3.2 billion after a loss of $ 1.2 billion in 2017. Revenue meanwhile reached $ 39 billion, up 26% compared to 2017, it said in a statement. 

Profits were boosted by $ 2.6 billion from the sale of Maersk Oil to French giant Total for $ 7.45 billion, after the deal was completed in March 2018. “In 2018, we accelerated our transformation and improved earnings despite lower than expected container volume growth and an increase in bunker fuel prices,” said Chief Executive Soren Skou in a statement. 

However, he added: “We still need to improve profitability from the level seen in 2018.” 

For 2019, the company forecast underlying profit – as measured by earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) – to rise to $ 5 billion from last year’s $ 3.8 billion. 

The increase was smaller than analysts’ expectations, and the firm pointed the finger at fears the US-China trade war could escalate. 

Maersk said the effect of trade restrictions between the US and China introduced in 2018 is “estimated to reduce global container trade growth by 0.3-1.0% points per year in 2019-2020 if US tariffs are increased to 25% in March 2019”. Talks are underway this week between top American and Chinese official to find a way to pause the trade dispute before a 1 March deadline, when the US is to increase tariffs of $ 200 billion in Chinese goods to 25% from the current 10%. 

 


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