Cosco Pacific profit forecast to double on global trade rebound

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 August, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 23 August, 2010, 12:00am

With container volumes surging at its mainland and overseas ports in the first half of this year, Cosco Pacific is set to book a net profit of about US$200 million when it reports its interim results later this week.

This would be close to double the net profit reported in the first half of last year and would reflect the substantial turnaround in global trade in the past 12 months.

Not only has the terminals and box-making arm of the country's largest shipping company seen a resurgence in container volumes at its 21 terminals on the mainland and abroad, there has also been a recovery at its shipping container making offshoot, China International Marine Containers.

Cosco saw average throughput growth of more than 19 per cent at its 17 terminals on the mainland and in Hong Kong in the first half. This took total container volumes at its Greater China facilities to almost 10.5 million teu, up from 8.9 million teu in the first half of last year.

The growth in container throughput compared with a 35 per cent surge in the country's export volumes between January and June.

There was also a 31.3 per cent rise in volumes to almost 1.6 million teu at its four overseas terminals in the first half. This included a 43.7 per cent increase to 287,900 teu at Cosco-PSA Terminal in Singapore.

Within Greater China, the biggest recovery was at Cosco's ports in the Yangtze River Delta, where throughput rose 26.3 per cent to more than 2.5 million teu. But the company's terminals in the Pearl River Delta and southern China were no slouch after the five facilities saw average throughput surge 23.9 per cent to more than 3.9 million teu. Only the Bohai Rim terminals, which include facilities in Qingdao and Tianjin, failed to post a double-digit increase, recording instead a 7.7 per cent rise in container volumes to slightly more than 4 million teu.

CIMC, which generated a net profit of almost US$10.4 million between January and March, is also likely to have seen a stronger second quarter.

This came after shipping lines and container leasing companies placed orders for new boxes to meet an unexpected shortage of containers, the reasons for which were twofold.

First, there was a stronger than forecast recovery in container shipping with almost 100 per cent utilisation of container ships heading from Asia.

Second, container shipping lines cut the speed of their ships to save costs and fuel, which meant containers were kept at sea for longer.

One analyst, commenting about Cosco's anticipated half-year results, said: 'We expect a net profit of US$189 million, which is up about 80 per cent compared with last year. The first half of 2009 was really tough.'

He said one of the key issues would be whether there were signs of a turnaround at Piraeus Container Terminal, over which Cosco assumed management control in October last year.

The facility in Greece was dogged by strikes, both before and after the handover, by dock workers protesting against Cosco's concession contract.

The analyst said the Piraeus terminal 'could potentially break even in 2011'.

But while he was upbeat about the company's first-half prospects, he also cautioned about the container throughput outlook for mainland ports in general in the second half.

'Volumes will be strong in the second half, but they might not be in the 20 to 30 per cent growth range we saw in the first half. Instead, growth is more likely to be around 15 per cent,' he said.

A rival analyst thought Cosco's half-year result was likely to be higher than anticipated because of the stronger rebound in container manufacturing at CIMC.

'Singamas Container Holdings, CIMC's main rival, generated almost US$40 million in profit in the first half. As CIMC is the world's leading container maker with 38 per cent of the global market, we expect it to generate better than forecast results,' he said.

Recovery mode

The shipping giant has seen a resurgence in container volumes

For the first six months of this year, the company is expected to report an interim net profit of, in US$: $200m