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Goodbye Stormy Seas As Moller-Maersk Lifts Outlook, Eyes Acquisitions

|Includes: A.P. Moeller-Maersk A/SA (AMKAF), BALT

In what is seen as a positive development in the Shipping world after month's of stormy weather, Shipping and oil group AP Moeller-Maersk (OTCPK:AMKAF) hiked its 2010 profit forecast to around $5bn as it posted forecast-beating profits for nine months, driven by cost cuts and higher freight rates and oil prices while the company's port operating arm is considering several acquisition opportunities in Asia and emerging nations as the shipping industry finally recovers from its long crisis period.

According to a Bloomberg report , A.P. Moeller-Maersk's container-terminal arm may invest in rail, truck or barge operators in China and India as Asian trade growth outpaces demand in the U.S. and Europe. APM, one of the world's top 4 port operators, has prioritized China, India and Vietnam as the three main countries to expand its business. Last year, APM Terminals handled 12.3 percent of all cargo going through container shipping ports. APM currently the third-largest unit in the Maersk conglomerate after Maresk Line, the world's largest container shipping company, and the petroleum unit Maersk Oil.    

Moller-Maersk Quarter Result Highlights: Net profit at the group, which owns the world’s biggest container shipping company Maersk Line, totaled 23.8bn Danish crowns ($4.4bn) in January-September against losses of 3.9bn in the same period last year. The result beat an average expectation of a profit of 21.4bn crowns in a Reuters poll of analysts whose estimates ranged from 19.9bn to 22.9bn. Average freight rates, including bunker surcharges, were up 34% in the nine months to end-September from the same period last year, and volumes 7% higher, Maersk said.

Earlier, Moller-Maersk, Denmark’s biggest company sold bonds for the first time last year and held the biggest share sale in its 106-year history. The company lifted its 2010 profit forecast last week for the third time in four months as freight rates and trade volumes recover.

Container Growth: Moller-Maersk, the Company that operates more than 50 terminals in 34 countries increased the number of containers it handled in the first nine months of this year by 3 percent to 23.5 million 20- foot boxes. The container industry, a key indicator of world economic growth, was considered in a much healthier state than the oil tanker and dry bulk markets, which were plagued by oversupplies of vessels and limited demand. Demand for container port handling was expected to increase by 7 percent in 2015 in emerging markets, surpassing the 2 percent increase seen in developed countries.  

Asia-U.S. shipping volumes have surged in the past two quarters and may rise from 6 percent to 9 percent next year, the group said, as the economic pick-up stokes U.S. demand for Chinese-made furniture, toys and clothing. The shipping lines plan to seek higher rates after the global recession hammered trade demand, causing industry wide losses.

Testimony of the reviving cargo demand, A.P. Moeller Maersk, the world’s largest container line, and 14 other shipping companies have agreed to seek rate increases of $400 per 40-foot box on Asia-U.S. west coast routes next year as the rebounding global economy revives cargo demand.

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