During the first quarter of 2012, CMA CGM reported year-over-year volume growth of 13.4 per cent to 2.6 million TEUs, while consolidated revenue increased by 2.6 per cent to $3.6 billion during the period. The first quarter was particularly difficult for the maritime container shipping industry: in a market shaped by persistent overcapacity, freight rates fell to new lows during the period, while oil prices climbed sharply until mid-March, with Rotterdam bunker prices rising to nearly $720 per tonne. In response to these challenging market conditions, CMA CGM continued to implement its cost reduction plan, which delivered $96.5 million in savings over the quarter, above its initial target.
During the quarter, CMA CGM successfully implemented its operational agreements in partnership with MSC on the Asia/Northern Europe trades and with Maersk on the Asia/Mediterranean lines.
Despite these efforts, CMA CGM reported an EBITDA loss of $31 million and a net loss of $248 million which, while disappointing, nevertheless represented one of the best financial and operating performances in the container shipping industry for the period.
Subsequent to the first quarter, freight rates rebounded. On the Asia/North Europe trade, for example, the benchmark Shanghai Containerized Freight Index stood at $1,666 per TEU as of June 1, a dramatic increase from $490 per TEU in December of 2011. Similar gains have been observed on the other leading trade routes, particularly the Asia/Mediterranean, Asia/USA and Asia/Latin America lanes.
Over the same period, oil prices have decreased significantly, with heavy fuel oil falling close to $560 per tonne in Rotterdam at the beginning of June, more than 20 per cent below its March peak. As a result, CMA CGM Group’s performance has improved sharply since the beginning of the second quarter. In particular, the Group reached break-even in terms of operating profit in April.
CMA CGM will continue to pursue its cost-reduction plan, which is expected to result in $400 million of additional savings by year-end, and expects to return to profitability in 2012.