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As banks exit the depressed shipping market, there is increased pressure on container lines to consolidate. The biggest carriers are able to get better economies of scale and this is having a direct effect on profitability – in the last quarter, Maersk earned, before interest and tax, just under $130 per box it carried; most other carriers achieved just half of that. But if M&A activity fails to pick up and banks continue to reduce access to debt, carriers may resort to going to the stock markets in search of fresh funds.

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