AP Møller-Maersk forecasts lower profits this year and a possible contraction in global trade as the pandemic-driven boom in container shipping comes to an abrupt end.

The world’s second-largest container shipping group said Wednesday’s underlying operating profit was $2 billion to $5 billion this year, up from a record $31 billion last year.

Last year’s fourth quarter alone generated $5.1 billion, even as freight rates normalized after skyrocketing as the pandemic disrupted global supply chains. 

Most of the world`s largest retailers, had over-ordered during the congestion of recent years.

Maersk said it expected global container demand to be between minus 2.5 per cent and plus 0.5 per cent this year.

Shares in Maersk fell 4 per cent in early trading on Wednesday. Revenues in 2022 increased by a third to $82bn while operating profit rose by 57 per cent to $31bn.

The Danish group largely refrained from ordering new ships during the boom years unlike many rivals, especially Mediterranean Shipping Company, the secretive Swiss company run by a former Maersk executive which last year overtook it as the world`s biggest container shipping line by volume.

Although Maersk is forecasting a sharp drop in profitability compared with last year, operating profits of $2bn-$5bn would be better than what it delivered in 2017-19 as well as possibly 2020’s $4.2bn.

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