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Maersk sees profits soar on record freight prices

Danish shipping giant Maersk on Wednesday posted record-beating profits in 2021, as container freight prices continued to soar due to the global supply chain crunch caused by the COVID pandemic.

For the full year, Maersk registered a net profit of $18 billion (€15.8bn), the highest profit ever recorded by a Danish company.

For 2022, Maersk predicted a “solid first half” would be followed by a “normalisation” of the sector early in the second part of the year.

Demand for shipping plunged at the start of the pandemic, but has rebounded strongly since mid-to-late 2020. As a result, sales for 2021 jumped by 55 per cent to $61.8 billion, with the ocean container shipping segment soaring by 65 per cent.

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) almost tripled to $24 billion, thanks to lower costs and optimisation of its logistics chain, Maersk said.

Its main competitors, Italy’s MSC and France’s CMA CGM, have also posted record profits for 2021.

Shipping customers have had their patience put to the test and had to dig deep into their pockets as the supply chain disruptions plague the container shipping segment.

In the fourth quarter, the sector experienced “exceptional conditions with significant and persisting bottlenecks, while the volumes were down”, Maersk said in its annual report.

Freight costs rose especially on Asian routes to Europe and North America, the Danish group said, with the unit cost at fixed bunker increasing by 13 per cent.

Maersk’s record profits are expected to continue this year, with EBITDA forecast to come in at the same level as in 2021, around $24 billion, despite the normalisation expected in the second half.

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) almost tripled to $24bn, thanks to lower costs and optimisation of its logistics chain

The company, which aims to be carbon neutral by 2050 by turning to green energy for its fleet, said its emissions declined by 42 per cent in 2021. 

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