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Maersk sees slight pick up in container traffic next year

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Maersk sees slight pick up in container traffic next year
FILE PHOTO: A truck transports a Maersk shipping container by a cargo ship at a port in Qingdao, Shandong province, China April 7, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo   -   Copyright  China Stringer Network(Reuters)
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COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – Shipping group A.P. Moller-Maersk <MAERSKb.CO> sees scope for a slight pick up in global seaborne container traffic in 2020 compared with this year, with ongoing trade tensions limiting the chances of stronger growth.

Maersk, the world’s biggest container shipper, said on Friday it expected global container demand to grow by 1-3% next after compared with 1-2% in 2019.

“The continued weakening of global sentiment, above all in the manufacturing sector, reduces the likelihood of a growth pick-up in 2020,” the company said in a statement.

Despite headwinds from the U.S.-China trade war, Maersk last month raised its expectations for 2019 profit, prompting its shares to jump more than 7%.

The company on Friday published a full set of results for the July to September period, reaffirming it is on track to improve its profit margin albeit on slightly lower revenue.

The pick up in profitability is driven by capacity management and cost control, with unit costs – the cost of moving a container on global seas – down 3% in the third quarter.

“We will continue our focus on profitability and free cash flow in the fourth quarter and into 2020,” Chief Executive Soren Skou said in a statement.

Maersk has in several quarters struggled to keep costs under control amid low freight rates, rising fuel prices and a slowdown in container shipping.

As Maersk shifts its focus from market share to lowering costs, it said it expected underlying growth in its ocean business to be slightly lower this year than average market growth.

Skou has overseen a major shift in Maersk’s strategy, announced in 2016, which has included selling off its oil and gas business to focus on its container and logistics business for customers including Walmart and Nike.

(Reporting by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen and Stine Jacobsen; Editing by Mark Potter)

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