* CEO tells Reuters transport demand outstrips supply
* Transport volume rise to slow on limited capacity
* Company keeps forecasts for EBITDA, EBIT ranges
* (Adds CEO comments, more detail)
FRANKFURT, Aug 12 (Reuters) – German container shipping line Hapag-Lloyd on Thursday said it sees no let-up in tight shipping capacity this year which has driven up its net profit in the first six months nearly 10-fold, thanks to income from runaway freight rates.
The infrastructure bottlenecks came as port waiting times lengthened due to labour shortages and traffic snarl-ups, leading to delays in returning empty containers, while the global fleet as such is already stretched.
“The world economy is recovering and that boosts demand, which coincides with clogged up ports caused by the coronavirus crisis,” chief executive Rolf Habben Jansen told Reuters.
“There is an imbalance between supply and demand and that’s why it remains tight,” he added.
The group, the world’s number five in the industry, in the six months reported net profit at 2.7 billion euros ($3.28 billion) from 285 million euros a year earlier.
Its shares were down 1.5% in early trade.
While supply chain strains bolstered shipping rates and earnings they are expected to weigh on volumes, with the group expecting an increase of only a few percent in the full year after a 4% rise in January-June.
Hapag-Lloyd ordered a dozen large container ships in December and in June, which will only arrive between the end of 2022 and into 2024.
New container boxes ordered earlier this year were trickling in and more still were due to arrive in the fourth quarter, the CEO said, but the company could not meet all demand for transport space.
Hapag-Lloyd’s first-half earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) rose 52% year-on-year to 3.5 billion euros and earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) were up 21% at 2.9 billion euros.
Revenues increased by 51% to 8.8 billion euros.
Freight rates increased 46% to $1,612 per 20-foot equivalent standard container unit (TEU) and fuel costs dropped by 6% to $421 a tonne.
Hapag-Lloyd upheld July 30 forecasts for higher EBITDA and EBIT ranges in 2021.
Bigger rival Maersk has also lifted its 2021 earnings outlook.
$1 = 0.8515 euros Reporting by Vera Eckert, editing by Tomasz Janowski