CMA CGM has posted a net profit of $1.75bn for 2020, following a loss of $229m the year before, and said it was “confident” about the outlook for 2021.

The French carrier stormed to a net profit of $1bn in the final quarter as freight rates soared across the world’s tradelanes, buoyed by consumer demand and supply chain bottlenecks.

Rodolphe Saade (pictured above), chairman and CEO of CMA CGM Group said: “In 2021, the volumes shipped should remain strong, at least throughout the first part of the year.

“We are expanding our service offering by further developing our logistics business. And we are growing our fleet of vessels with the delivery of 13 additional LNG-powered containerships.”

Despite a 2.7% decline in liftings last year, to 21m teu, CMA CGM’s revenue earned from liner services grew 3.9%, to $31.45bn, with ebitda skyrocketing by 62.5% to $6.1bn, for a net income of $1.75bn.

And average revenue per teu last year was up 6.8% on the previous year, to $1,154, which compares with OOCL’s average of $1,100 and Maersk’s $1,000. However, the huge recent increases in freight rates on many routes should see these averages soar this year.

According to Lars Jensen, of SeaIntelligence, CMA CGM’s volume decline in the first half of 2020 – a consequence of the pandemic – was in the mid-range of two of its peers that have reported their carryings so far, with Hapag-Lloyd’s volume declining 1.7% and Maersk declaring a contraction of 5%.

The carrier’s ebitda margin in its shipping division of 22.7%, Mr Jensen said, showed an “essentially identical financial performance” to that of Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd, which reported margins of 22.4% and 21.2%, respectively.

“In order to ease supply chain tensions and respond to the strong demand in the third and fourth quarters of 2020, CMA CGM increased its capacity by deploying the maximum number of containers and vessels across all its tradelanes,” said the carrier.

On its Asia-Europe services it increased capacity by 18% in the second half with the deployment of larger ships, and had also enlarged its global container fleet capacity by 8.7% over the year.

With a capacity of just under 3m teu on a fleet of 556 ships, CMA CGM is the fourth-ranked global carrier, just behind Cosco Shipping, but its larger orderbook would take it above the Chinese state-owned operator in the rankings after delivery.

By the end of next year, the carrier will own 32 LNG-powered containerships, reiterating its view that the fuel is “currently the best available technology” in the drive to decarbonise container shipping

CMA CGM’s logistics arm, Ceva Logistics, improved its performance in 2020, recording a loss of $105m, versus a loss of $161m the previous year, achieved from a 3.1% increase in turnover, to $7.35bn.

“The group’s logistics activity grew adequately throughout the year, mainly supported by air freight business,” said CMA CGM.

It said the group would “continue to roll out new capacities and introduce new services and ports of call”, and that the “favourable trends in the logistics sector should continue in 2021”.

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