Suspends share buybacks amid Red Sea disruption

Suspends share buybacks amid Red Sea disruption

Suspends share buybacks amid Red Sea disruption

Giant gantry cranes and off loading freighter in Haifa container port, Israel.

Ucg | Universal Images Group | Getty Images

LONDON — Shares of Danish shipping giant Maersk slumped more than 14% in early trade Thursday after it flagged “high uncertainty” in its 2024 earnings outlook amid Red Sea disruptions and an oversupply of shipping vessels.

The company also said that it would be suspending share buybacks on the back of the uncertainty.

Maersk said it expected underlying EBITDA (or earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization) of between $1 billion and $6 billion this year, compared to the $9.6 billion recorded in 2023.

Shares were trading 14.2% lower at 8:30 a.m. London time.

“The impact of this situation is causing new uncertainty for how this is going to play out from an earnings perspective throughout the year,” CEO Vincent Clerc told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe.”

“We have very little visibility as to whether this is a situation that will resolve in a matter of weeks or months, or whether this is something that is going to be with us for the full year,” he added.

In a statement, the company added that its board had decided to “immediately suspend the share buy-back programme, with a re-initiation to be reviewed once market conditions in Ocean [division] have settled.”

It comes as the company reported fourth-quarter profit below expectations Thursday, with EBITDA for the three-month period dropping to $839 million versus the $1.13 billion anticipated by analysts.

Global supply chains have faced serious disruption since late 2023 after major shipping companies began diverting journeys away from the Red Sea following a string of attacks by Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

The Iran-aligned group has targetted commercial vessels with drones and missiles in what they say is an act of solidarity with Palestinians amid the ongoing Gaza-Israel war.

The diversions around one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes have pushed up delivery times and costs, with the OECD warning Monday that it could increase inflation.

The Paris-based group said that the recent 100% rise in seaborne freight rates, if persistent, could see import price inflation across its 38 member countries rise by nearly 5 percentage points.

The rerouting has boosted freight rates for shipping companies, but Clerc said it was unlikely that those increases would feed through to profits.

“I don’t think from an earnings perspective, for the industry or for Maersk, when you look at it in its entirety that this is going to be something where we generate significant profit out of the situation,” he said.

“It is something where today the amount of cost we’re absorbing in order to keep the global supply chain going is still unknown.”

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