Hamburg Süd said revenues in 2012 were 4.8 billion euros ($6.17 billion), up 16 percent over 2011.
The German liner company said it handled 3.3 million TEUs last year, about 4 percent more than in 2011, which it said was “roughly in line with market growth.”
In a press release reviewing 2012, Hamburg Süd said “Europe-America and Far East services contributed in particular to this growth. Pleasing performance was seen, too, in some of the inter-America services. By contrast, Mediterranean operations, and in part the Pacific services, fell below expectations.
“Freight rates in the mix of all services were held on a par with the previous year. Bunker costs and other operational costs went on rising. Only the chartering-in of vessels afforded some relief given the depressed charter market,” the carrier added.
Hamburg Süd is part of the family-owned Oetker conglomerate, which has interests in food and beverage, banking, insurance, publishing and hotel industries.
It also has breakbulk shipping and product tanker activities. If those are added to the container results, the shipping division had sales of 5.5 billion euros, 15 percent over 2011.
“On the back of constant freight rates and continuing cost pressure in the operational area in the last financial year, the Hamburg Süd Group’s result was marginally in excess of plan. An improvement on the previous year was also achieved, due mainly to successful capacity management. However, it is as yet not possible to speak of a satisfactory earnings level,” the carrier said.
“Capital spending, for the most part in the form of deposits and final payments on ship newbuildings, was roughly 48 percent lower in 2012 than in the previous year and was financed entirely from operational cash flow.”
Hamburg Süd said “freight rates in the mix of all services were held on a par with the previous year. Bunker costs and other operational costs kept on rising. Only the chartering-in of vessels afforded some relief, given the depressed charter market.
The company continued to optimize its liner network in 2012 and via key transhipment hubs in Cartagena, Colombia, and Tanger, Morocco, customers were offered additional connections between South America, Europe and the Middle East.
Hamburg Süd said it reduced the size of its container fleet by three ships to 104, but slot capacity increased 9 percent as larger ships were brought into services.
These include three “Santa”-class ships with 7,100 TEUs of capacity put into service during 2012. These are Hamburg Süd’s largest containerships to date, and they're employed between Northern Europe and South America's east coast, as well as between Asia and the east coast of South America.
The carrier said six larger ships, the 9,600-TEU “Cap San” vessels that were ordered in 2011, will be delivered in 2013/2014. All of those ships are to be deployed on the trade lanes between Asia and South America, as well as between Europe and South America.
Hamburg Süd said it will also take delivery of four 3,800-TEU newbuildings that are to be deployed in a Brazilian cabotage service operated by its Aliança subsidiary.
For its 2013 outlook, Hamburg Süd said “only isolated positive signals can be discerned in the current financial year. A fundamental change in the shipping industry’s poor earnings situation is not to be expected in 2013 from today’s perspective.
“It is to be assumed that freight rates will remain under pressure in the current year and liner shipping be characterised by further intense earnings volatility. Crucial to the course of the financial year ahead will be the extent to which the liner shipping companies – largely forgoing gains in market share – operate a forward-looking capacity management policy and so ensure freight rate stabilization,” the carrier explained.
“With a moderately positive development of the global economy, an equalization of capacity and cargo volume can be expected in 2015 at the earliest. The prerequisite for this, however, is the absence of any sizeable ship newbuilding order activity,” it said.
“In the area of bulk shipping, no fundamental recovery in the market can be expected in 2013 given the serious overcapacity situation. Similarly, there is no turnaround yet in sight in 2013 for the product tankers,” Hamburg Süd added.
Hamburg Süd said it “intends to continue along the path it has pursued in recent years and grow in line with the market.”
In December 2012, the management of Hamburg Süd and German counterpart Hapag-Lloyd began investigating a possible merger, but negotiations were broken off in late March. Hamburg Süd said “a resumption (of negotiations) is unforeseeable at this time.” - Chris Dupin