Although its operating environment has remained challenging, Hapag-Lloyd finished its first quarter in a much better position than last year. As expected, the company posted a loss in what is traditionally the weakest quarter of the year for the liner shipping sector. However, it reduced its loss before interest and taxes by 50 per cent, compared with Q1 of 2012. Revenues of EUR 1.65 billion were recorded – an increase of 3.1 per cent compared with the same period of the previous year. This was mainly attributable to an increase in average freight rates, which increased by 4.2 per cent to USD 1,546/TEU. In addition, transport volumes edged up by 0.75 per cent to 1.33 million TEUs. Bunker prices averaged USD 627/tonne in the first three months of 2013. Although this figure is lower by USD 50 compared to the previous year, bunker prices remain persistently high. At the end of 2008, bunker fuel was priced at less than a quarter of the current price.

Hapag-Lloyd generated positive EBITDA of EUR 24.0 million in the first quarter, which represents a considerable improvement over 2012’s Q1 negative EBITDA of EUR 21.1 million. Adjusted EBIT was negative at EUR -53.2 million, which was considerably less than the negative EBIT of -99.5 million produced in the first quarter of 2012. During the first quarter of 2013, the Group’s net result improved by almost EUR 40 million compared to the prior year period, resulting in a loss of EUR 93.6 million (Q1 of 2012 witnessed a loss of EUR 132.4 million).

“Liner shipping started 2013 on a higher level than in 2012. However, the competition remains extremely challenging. Rates have come under tangible pressure since April, especially on the important East-West routes, and competition is also becoming tougher on Latin America trades,” said Michael Behrendt, Chairman of the Executive Board of Hapag-Lloyd. “It is important that rates soon return to a sensible, profitable level. This is absolutely essential and in the interests of all who rely on a functioning, reliable maritime shipping industry – from shipping lines to shippers. We cannot afford a repeat of last year’s non-existent peak season.”

Hapag-Lloyd has announced further rate increases on all trades and is also taking additional steps to cut costs. These efforts started bearing fruit in the first quarter. Despite the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the global economy, the company aims to achieve a positive operating result (adjusted EBIT) for the full year 2013. With an equity ratio of 44.2 per cent (as at 31 March 2013), Hapag-Lloyd has a sound balance sheet structure, and has secured the necessary financing for all the investments in containers and ships that it has committed itself to.