China Shipping Container Lines (CSCL) yesterday recommended its first dividend as strong demand for seaborne transport services saw the mainland's No2 carrier easily beat the consensus forecast for last year's earnings. The dedicated container shipping division of the state-owned China Shipping Group posted a net profit of 4.02 billion yuan - beating analyst consensus of 3.4 billion yuan - on sales of 22.36 billion yuan, up 46.4 per cent year on year. 'People have been reluctant to take China Shipping seriously, but these results will probably convert a few people,' said a transport analyst. It offered investors a maiden dividend of 20 fen per share. CSCL, which listed in Hong Kong eight months ago, has been rapidly expanding its box-fleet in an aggressive attempt to capture market share, particularly on the lucrative Pacific trades. It added 25,000 teu (20-foot equivalent units) in deep-sea capacity in the second half of last year when demand for space to transport the mainland's exports was at a premium. 'CSCL was one company that had capacity to fill in the second half, so I am not surprised they beat consensus, and we expect them to have beaten most of their peers last year,' the analyst said. The firm has an additional 45,376 teu in capacity scheduled for delivery this year, according to its June prospectus, in what is expected to be another strong year for the container shipping market. It will continue to expand until at least 2007, projecting a compound annual growth rate for its fleet of 21.6 per cent. The mainland's No1 container carrier, China Ocean Shipping (Coscon), is also following an aggressive expansion mandate as both carriers try to meet the country's demand for maritime transport services. 'The difference between CSCL and Coscon is that CSCL's [capital expenditure] has accelerated faster, though, over the coming years, Coscon's capex is expected to be as significant as that of CSCL,' Citigroup analyst Charles DeTrenck said in a recent report. He estimated that CSCL's capex had reached US$646 million last year. Coscon is expected to bring its widely reported US$2 billion to US$3 billion initial public offering to the Hong Kong market within the next six months. It is believed Coscon has taken longer than expected because it intends to include all of its overseas shipping assets in the listed company. Each injection of the overseas shipping assets would require approval from the State Council.