The Port of Singapore Authority (PSA) saw net earnings drop almost 9 per cent year on year for last year as the economic downturn and loss of its biggest liner customer to a regional rival took their toll. Profit after tax and minority interests fell S$72.1 million (about HK$305.19 million), to S$732.1 million, against a marginal drop in turnover and 'higher expenses due largely to new businesses', the company said. Turnover dipped 2.3 per cent year on year, to S$2.28 billion, while operating profit dipped 6.4 per cent, to S$1.08 billion. Containerised throughput at its main facility in Singapore, where it handles more than 80 per cent of group volume, fell almost 9 per cent year on year to 15.52 million teu (20 ft equivalent units), its lowest figure in three years. In unit terms, last year's throughput marked a 1.56 million teu drop from its peak in 2000. The decline was largely attributable to the exodus of the world's biggest liner company, Maersk Sealand, which switched transshipment operations to Malaysia's Port of Tanjung Pelepas (PTP) after taking a 30 per cent stake. Charles de Trenck, analyst for Solomon Smith Barney, said: 'Pre-annual report, this statement is not the easiest to work with. But it appears that revenue per teu stayed relatively stable in a tough global environment. This was probably aided by the exodus of a high-volume client such as Maersk, which would have been able to leverage a lower-than-average rate, resulting in a flat or better movement in the port company's revenue per teu. 'Given that revenue from core operations appears to have fallen about 10 per cent, the less than 7 per cent fall in operating income could be seen as a positive statement. A different revenue mix last year and some cost cutting probably helped prop the income numbers up.' The Maersk move cost PSA about two million teu a year, and may be followed by its second-biggest customer, Taiwan's Evergreen Marine. Evergreen chairman Chang Yung-fa said in January the line would relocate its Southeast Asia transshipment hub to PTP, saving the carrier NT$200 million (about HK$44.56 million) a year. Analysts said PSA had traditionally not been flexible on price or on offering liner companies dedicated berths, but new economic realities are understood to have compelled it to make a last-ditch effort to keep the Taiwan shipping giant. Industry watchers said if PSA did manage to retain Taiwan's biggest liner company, it would not be without paying a price. Evergreen moved about 1.2 million teu through Singapore last year. The PSA's international terminals saw throughput jump 32.8 per cent year on year from a low base. Its facilities in Dalian, Fuzhou, Guangzhou, Antwerp, Zeebrugge, Brunei, Pipavav (India), Voltri and Venice (Italy), Incheon, Portugal and Aden (Yemen) combined to move 3.61 million teu last year.