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Maersk has exceeded analyst expectations, further upgrading its full-year earnings guidance to a level some 45% higher than at the start of the pandemic.

At the same time, the Danish transport and logistics group has confirmed around 2,000 redundancies as a consequence of its decision to retire its Safmarine and Damco brands and the rationalisation of back office and sales roles at subsidiary carrier Hamburg Süd.

Maersk said it would take a $100m hit from the redundancies in the third quarter.

A source told The Loadstar today he understood that the number of redundancies was lower that had originally been feared by staff, but the timing against the impressive financials “was not a good motivator”.

The continuing strong demand recovery across major trades, resulting in a substantial spike in freight rates, is expected to deliver rich returns for ocean carriers for the remainder of the year, and possibly into 2021.

From its original guidance, of an ebitda of $5.5bn subsequently revised to $6bn-$7bn, a “strong Q3 and a solid Q4” outlook has prompted Maersk to increase this to $7.5bn-$8bn.

Maersk today reported an unaudited revenue of $9.9bn for Q3, for an ebitda before restructuring and integration costs of $2.4bn, despite a year-on-year decline in liftings of 3% across its ocean division.

“AP Møller-Maersk is on track to deliver a strong Q3 with solid earnings growth across all our businesses, in particular in Ocean and Logistics & Services,” said CEO Soren Skou. “Volumes have rebounded faster than expected, our costs have remained well under control, freight rates have increased due to strong demand and we are growing earnings rapidly in Logistics & Services.”

He added that the outlook for Q4 was solid for the same reasons, but cautioned that the outlook for 2021 remained uncertain, due to the ongoing pandemic.

“Potential new lock downs will impact demand and the timing and effectiveness of a potential vaccine will impact 2021,” he said.

However, indications on the booming transpacific tradelane, for example, are that the demand for imports, prompted by consumers shifting their spending from services to goods, will continue through to the Chinese New Year in February.

According to investment bank Jefferies, Maersk’s full-year earnings guidance upgrade was some 10%-15% ahead of consensus, reflecting a 23% uplift for the third quarter.

In a recent overview of the liner sector, Jefferies said “the stars are aligning for container shipping” as a consequence of consolidation, rational capacity management and “a fast bounce-back in demand, post-lockdown”.

Maersk is the “top pick” in Jefferies’ upgrade of the container shipping sector to ‘Buy’, citing the company’s accumulation of a $9bn war chest for potential logistics acquisitions. It reported a net profit of $443m for Q2, compared with $154m for the same period of 2019.

It will publish its Q3 interim result on 18 November.

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