Moller-Maersk ups outlook as profit beats

Shipping group Moller-Maersk surprised investors by delivering better-than-expected earnings on Friday and lifting its profit target, although the group's CEO warned that the outlook for container shipping remained challenging.

The shipping giant posted a smaller-than-expected 11 percent drop in net profit to $856 million. Analysts polled by Reuters forecast a 30 percent drop to $667 million. The company increased its profit guidance for the full year from a previous target of $2.9 billion to $3.3 billion.

Investors reacted positively to the news, sending the stock 6.8 percent higher at the start of trade in Europe.

(Read more: Moller-Maersk CEO: No need for new capacity)

"In general, the second quarter has been quite tough both in terms of [freight] rates and volumes but we've been successful in improving our competitiveness so our cost picture has improved dramatically over the last few years," Chief Executive Nils Andersen told CNBC Europe's "Squawk Box."

"When you look a the average results for the industry in the second quarter, the industry is not making any money. Low rates are hurting the industry too much. I'm hopeful that they've bottomed out but we have to be prepared that they can become volatile in the future."

The high cost of investments it has made had pressured the group's earnings in the last few years, he said, although the cost picture had improved significantly.

"If the oil price stays where it is now these cost pressures could ease a little bit going forward but we'll have to see that. At the moment (it) is quite good at $111 today, we have $101 in our forecast for the rest of the year."