“Chinese companies are currently working at 50-60% of their production capacity. We can already expect a return to full operation by the first week of next month, but Chinese exports will remain weak, at least for February and March”. Maersk Group’s chief executive, Søren Skou, said this on the fringe of the press conference to present the 2019 financial report, adding that he hopes for a definitive upswing in April.
The company closed the year with revenues of $38.9 billion, down 0.9% on 2018. The gross operating margin, on the other hand, improved by 14% to $5.7 billion.
Although the growth in the container market remained modest, only 1.4%, the company still managed to improve its cash flow, which amounted to $6.1 billion.
Nevertheless, concerns remain high about the impact that the Coronavirus is having on container shipping. Maersk has announced that it has cancelled 50 more departures in addition to the ones usually cancelled each year due to the Chinese New Year celebrations.
“We expect a situation with the Coronavirus not unlike the Sars’ one; the only difference being that the Covid-19 will have a greater magnitude due to China’s increased centrality in both the supply chain and the global economy,” commented Søren Skou.
Another source of concern is IMO 2020, which – stresses Skou – will have an impact “on fuel prices and tariffs for combined transport”.
Translation by Giles Foster