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UPDATE 2-Maersk profit miss puts CEO's shipping route under scrutiny

(Releads, adds details, share price fall)

COPENHAGEN, Feb 9 (Reuters) - A.P. Moller-Maersk's decision to focus on transport and jettison oil was put under pressure on Friday as the world's largest container shipping firm missed profit forecasts.

Although Maersk's chief executive Soren Skou said he remained positive about the outlook for global trade, the company's shares was down 2.9 percent to 10,060 Danish crowns by 0925 GMT after the fourth-quarter profit miss.

"Guidance for 2018 was vague," Fearnley analyst Espen Fjermestad said of Maersk's forecast for earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA).

With higher fuel costs and little sign of higher freight rates, Fjermestad said there was "more downside than upside for expectations for 2018".

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.

Shares in Maersk are down by more than 30 percent from a July 2017 peak when optimism around freight rates and a turnaround in global container shipping began to fade.

The industry, which has been hit by years of overcapacity and slow economic growth, saw early signs of a turnaround in early 2017, but freight rates fell in the second half.

"I'm still very optimistic on the fundamentals of the global container shipping industry," Skou told Reuters in an interview following Friday's quarterly results.

Maersk said it expects EBITDA at $4-$5 billion, compared with analyst expectations of $5.3 billion.

The company 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 and analysts that it took the right course. Of the 23 analysts covering the stock, 11 are positive and five are negative, while the average target price is 12,547 crowns.

But while EBITDA rose to $844 million from $605 million, this 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 a 5 percent advance last year, it said.

(Reporting by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen; additional reporting by Stine Jacobsen; editing by Jason Neely and Alexander Smith)