CMA CGM bucked the trend of its loss-making ocean carrier peers in the second quarter, producing a net profit of $23m and an ebit margin of 1.2%.

However, the French carrier remained in negative territory for the first half of the year, recording a cumulative loss of $54m.

Turnover in the second quarter was up 7.4% on the same period of 2017, to $5.7bn, from a 9.6% growth in liftings to 5.2m teu.

Ebit was $67m, a massive 86% lower than the year before, and CMA CGM’s net income plunged by a similar percentage.

However, CMA CGM was the only carrier in the top five to achieve a net profit in the second quarter – excluding MSC which does not publish its results.

Having usurped CMA CGM from its long-coveted position of third-biggest carrier, behind Maersk and MSC, technically Cosco now assumes lead line status in the Ocean Alliance, a situation the French line, currently celebrating its 40th anniversary, will be keen to address in its growth strategy.

Rodolphe Saade, chairman and chief executive of CMA CGM Group, said: “The strong volume growth demonstrates our commercial strength and the quality of our service offering.”

He added that the carrier was “confident for the second half of the year”.

“We anticipate an improved operating margin, thanks to the rise in freight rates and sustained volumes.”

CMA CGM specifically attributed its robust volume growth to the transpacific, Asia-Middle East and South American routes, where it benefited from the acquisition of Brazilian cabotage line Mercosul from Maersk Line.

Negative impacts were a 2.1% decline in average freight rate per teu and a 28% jump in the cost per tonne of bunker fuel.

Lars Jensen, chief executive and partner at SeaIntelligence Consulting, said: “When seen in the context of a weak market, the result was indeed strong.”

He noted that CMA CGM’s ebit margin of 1.2% for the quarter tied the carrier with Hapag-Lloyd as the best-in-class performance of the global carriers.

Notwithstanding the French carrier’s return to profitability, the liner industry has suffered another quarter of severe losses. With all the major carriers that do so now having reported their interims, they have racked up a cumulative loss of some $1.2bn in the period, which follows a similar amount of red ink in the first quarter.

During Q2, CMA CGM announced it had agreed to purchase Finnish shortsea inter-Europe operator Containerships, which it said was part of its strategy to “strengthen its offering in the intra-regional trades”.

And in May it surprised the industry with its confirmation that it had acquired a 25% stake in CEVA Logistics to “strengthen its presence in logistics” and enable it to offer “high added-value solutions throughout the logistics chain”.

The company has said that it would continue to look for consolidation opportunities in the liner sector, after reportedly having an approach to the shareholders of Hapag-Lloyd rejected.

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