Sunday, February 8, 2009

Maersk cuts profit outlook on affiliate loss

COPENHAGEN: A.P. Moeller-Maersk A/S, the world's largest container shipper, said 2008 profit missed targets after Danske Bank A/S, in which the company owns a 20 per cent stake, reported a fourth-quarter loss.

Net income including minority interests probably totaled US$3.4 billion (US$1 = RM3.61) last year, compared with a November 12 forecast of US$4 billion to US$4.3 billion, Copenhagen-based Maersk said in a stock exchange statement on Thursday. The company also said it expects impairment losses from some other units that it didn't identify. Maersk is scheduled to publish earnings for 2008 on March 5.

Danske Bank, Denmark's biggest lender, on Thursday reported the first quarterly loss this decade after bad loans in Denmark and Ireland soared. Maersk said the bank's result will reduce its profit by US$280 million and the shipping company will write down the value of its Danske holding by US$220 million.

"Danske Bank didn't perform as we had hoped for, but I can say that we have no plans of selling our stake," chief financial officer Soeren Thorup Soerensen said in a telephone interview. "The performance of our other units was generally as expected in the fourth quarter."

The company's other units, in addition to the container line, include the Nordic region's second-largest oil and gas company and the world's largest refined oil-product tanker operator. After "impairment tests" on the other divisions, Maersk plans to write down those operations' value by US$300 million, the company said.

Maersk declined 100 kroner (100 kroner = RM64.5), or 0.3 per cent, to close at 30,900 kroner in Copenhagen trading, outperforming Denmark's benchmark OMX C20 Index, which fell 1.6 per cent. The shares have lost 36 per cent in 12 months, valuing Maersk at 137 billion kroner.

The new outlook was "better than expected," Christian Nagstrup, an analyst at Jyske Bank A/S in Silkeborg, Denmark, said by e-mail, reiterating a "buy" recommendation on Maersk stock. Stripping out the combined earnings reduction of US$800 million, Maersk would post profit of US$4.2 billion, at the high end of its previous forecast range, Nagstrup said. - Bloomberg

Source: NST Online

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