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SHIPPING

Poor results sink shares of China Cosco, CSCL as industry suffers

Industry facing 'very long winter' as capacity glut collides with slowing demand growth

PUBLISHED : Friday, 31 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 31 August, 2012, 5:27am

Shares in two of China's largest shipping companies slumped yesterday after they released interim results that pulled them deeper into the red.

China Cosco fell as much as 4.5 per cent after the firm reported a 4.87 billion yuan (HK$5.96 billion) net loss between January and June, a jump of 76.7 per cent from last year's first-half net loss. Revenue rose 1.3 per cent to 42.6 billion yuan.

Shares in the company, which controls Cosco's container and dry bulk shipping, terminals, logistics and container leasing assets, later recovered to close 3.5 per cent down at HK$3.04.

China Shipping Container Lines' stock slid 10.8 per cent to close at HK$1.56 after the carrier unveiled a 1.28 billion yuan net loss in the first half. This was a jump of 120 per cent from the same period a year earlier, despite a 9.6 per cent increase in revenue to 15.3 billion yuan.

China Cosco chairman Wei Jiafu said "the shipping industry is facing a very long winter" as a glut of new tonnage outpaces slowing growth in cargo demand.

"Things will continue to be very difficult" in the second half, although there "may be some slight recovery" towards the end of the year, Wei said at a results briefing yesterday. He avoided direct questions about when the shipping sector could see a sustained recovery.

Wan Min, Cosco Container Lines managing director, said Beijing was expected to unveil new measures after the National Day holiday in October to stimulate demand and buoy the shipping industry, although he gave no further details.

While Wei apologised for the losses, he said China Cosco was not alone in reporting a net loss this year, given the difficult trading conditions and economic uncertainties in the US and Europe and slowing mainland growth.

He said more than 25 major shipping companies globally had either collapsed or were going through bankruptcy protection.

Wei also avoided answering questions about the possibility of China Cosco being put on the Shanghai Stock Exchange's "special treatment" list if it makes a full-year loss this year. Such a move could limit trading in the firm's shares. Under the Shanghai bourse's rules, China Cosco would be automatically delisted if it reported another full-year loss for next year.

By comparison, China Shipping Container Lines saw a recovery in the second quarter, generating a profit of 173 million yuan as against a first-quarter loss of 1.5 billion yuan. This followed a series of container freight rate increases from March that helped boost revenue.

Jon Windham, a shipping analyst with Barclays, expected CSCL's earnings to peak in the third quarter before declining in the traditionally weaker fourth quarter.

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