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CMA CGM Losses

CMA CGM posted a consolidated net loss of $325m in 2016, but was in the black by the fourth quarter as container trades started to pick up. In the fourth quarter, the line posted a profit of $45m against a $46m loss the previous year, with revenue jumping to 28% and freight rates moving higher. Acquiring Singapore group NOL (Neptune Orient Lines) in mid-2016 for $2.4bn brought the total loss to $425m.

The results reflect a dismal year for the entire industry as freight rates hit record lows, with one carrier going bankrupt and several others in the red. Nevertheless, CMA CGM chief executive Rodolphe Saadé said 2016 had been “a major year in the history of our development, with the strategic acquisition of NOL and the constitution of Ocean Alliance, which will fully contribute to the group’s performance in 2017”.

Volumes shipped by the group last year rose 20% to 15.6m TEU, reflecting the acquisition of NOL. CMA CGM said the average income per TEU increased by 2.9% between the third and fourth quarters of 2016, but for the year it shrank 13.6% compared with 2015.

Looking ahead, CMA CGM said the recovery seen in late 2016 had continued in the early weeks of 2017, with both freight rates and volumes stronger. It also revealed it has postponed the delivery of three ships originally due this year until 2018, and does not anticipate any new ship orders in the short-term “in order to maintain the delicate balance between supply and demand”.

The French line, which is now firmly established as the world’s third largest container line has had a hectic year but appears to have no plans to ease up. After completing the acquisition of NOL, CMA CGM also bid for Hamburg Süd. The German north-south specialist was eventually sold to Maersk Line but CMA CGM is still looking out for acquisitions, especially in the Central and South America trades.

In three weeks’ time, CMA CGM will commence a new network of east-west services with its Ocean Alliance partners Evergreen, COSCO and OOCL that will give the French line a strong position in the US trades, where it set its sights on being the largest carrier serving the country.