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Earnings

The world's largest shipping firm says profits 'must improve' in 2019, shares dive 9%

Key Points
  • Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) came in at $1.12 billion for the final three months of 2018, above the $1.07 billion forecast by analysts in a Reuters poll.
  • The company said it expects EBITDA as calculated under International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) for this year of around $5 billion.
A crane loads a shipping container branded A.P. Moller-Maersk onto a freight ship.
Balint Porneczi | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Danish shipping group Moller-Maersk reported fourth-quarter earnings in line with expectations on Thursday, but warned a long-running trade conflict between the world's two largest economies could hamper growth in 2019.

Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) came in at $1.12 billion for the final three months of 2018, above the $1.07 billion forecast by analysts in a Reuters poll.

Shares of the company slipped more than 9 percent after results.

The company said it expects EBITDA as calculated under International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) for this year of around $5 billion.

"Although we had a challenging start to 2018, looking at our financial performance, we increased earnings despite significantly higher bunker fuel prices and lower than expected container volume growth in the second half of 2018," Soren Skou, CEO of Moller-Maersk, said in a statement on Thursday.

"However, profitability needs to improve," he added.

Trade war

The world's largest container shipping company is generally viewed as a global barometer for trade, at a time when the U.S. and China are locked in a protracted dispute.

"Maersk's guidance for 2019 is subject to considerable uncertainties due to the current risk of further restrictions on global trade and other factors impacting container freight rates, bunker prices and foreign exchange rates," the company said Thursday.

The former conglomerate is restructuring to focus entirely on transport and logistics and plans to step up competition with delivery companies UPS and Fedex.

— Reuters contributed to this report.