Hapag-Lloyd is the Latest to Report Extraordinarily Strong Results

Hapag-Lloyd reports strong results
Hapag's profits increased by more than four times in 2021 (file photo)

Published Feb 1, 2022 5:04 PM by The Maritime Executive

Hapag-Lloyd became the next major carrier in the container shipping sector to report record results continuing the tone of exceptional results coming from across the sector in both the fourth quarter and the whole of 2021. Saying that it had achieved “extraordinarily strong operating results,” the world’s fifth-largest container shipping company by volume released preliminary results with significantly higher year-over-year performance, but its stock was still off more than four percent in trading today.

“The main drivers of these positive business developments have been significantly improved freight rates resulting from very strong demand for goods exported from Asia,” wrote Hapag. They however cautioned, “At the same time, the major disruptions in global supply chains have led to a significant increase in transport expenses.”

The higher expenses however did little to dampen the results. For the full year, Hapag reported an 80 percent increase in its total revenues driven by an equally strong increase in freight rates. Rates more than doubled in the fourth quarter producing $8.4 billion in revenues. Nearly a third of the carrier’s total revenues of $26.4 billion were produced in the final quarter of 2021.

The strength of the markets more than quadrupled Hapag’s earnings for the full year to $12.8 billion (EBITDA). The fourth quarter earnings were exceptionally strong reaching $4.7 billion.

The carrier which ended the year with a fleet of 257 containerships and a capacity of 1.8 million TEU however was working flat-out for most of 2021. Transport volumes for the full year were flat in 2021 versus 2020 and showed a 6.5 percent decline in the fourth quarter versus the prior year, likely due to the port congestion.

Hapag promised to provide more details as well as its outlook when it reports the final results for 2021 on March 10. The preliminary report, however, continued the tone being set across the container shipping industry and again highlighted analysts’ expectations that the sector will report an exceptionally strong performance for 2021 as it moves forward into a continuing strong profit cycle in 2022.

Maersk set the tone for the industry two weeks ago when it reported preliminary unaudited financial results for the fourth quarter of 2021 ahead of expectations prompting the shipping giant to once again increase its forecast for the full year. Maersk had already been on track to report the largest profit ever for a Danish company. Like Hapag, Maersk also reported an 80 percent increase in fourth quarter freight rates and a slightly smaller four percent decrease in ocean volumes during the quarter.

In the time between Maersk and Hapag’s reports, other major carriers including several of the Asian companies, COSCO, OOCL, and Ocean Network Express (ONE), also released results. For example, OOCL said despite port congestion it had achieved record revenues and strong results in the fourth quarter.  While ONE works on a fiscal year, it reported results in the last quarter (its FY Q3) of better than a 400 percent increase in profits to $4.9 billion. They also raised their earnings forecast to $15.4 billion for the full year.

The major carriers are all reporting that port congestion is impacting the volumes, but at the same time demand and the congestion continues to drive rates producing the extraordinary current cycle for the industry.