Maersk positive on global container shipping despite Q4 miss

A crane loads a shipping container branded A.P. Moller-Maersk onto a freight ship.
Balint Porneczi | Bloomberg | Getty Images

A.P. Moller-Maersk missed fourth-quarter profit expectations on Friday but earnings were up and the chief executive leading a turnaround at the world's largest container shipping company said the outlook was positive.

The Danish company's earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) rose to $844 million from $605 million, but fell short of the $896 million forecast by analysts in a Reuters poll.

Maersk expects underlying net profit to rise this year and 3-4 percent growth in seaborne container transportation after around a 5 percent advance last year, it said.

"I'm still very optimistic on the fundamentals of the global container shipping industry," Chief Executive Soren Skou told Reuters in an interview.

Skou, who has staked his future on Maersk as a transport business, said the level of global trade looks positive despite more talk of protectionism and that orders for new vessels are at a historic low compared to current fleet size.

Maersk announced a restructuring plan in 2016 focused on shipping which led to a $7.45 billion sale of energy arm Maersk Oil to Total last August.

With oil prices rising again, it now has to prove to investors that its decision was right. The shares are down 27 percent from a July 2017 peak when optimism around freight rates started to fade.