AP Møller-Maersk warned on Wednesday of growing economic risks, including potential stagflation and Chinese factory closures, even as the container shipping giant reported a record quarter.
Søren Skou, chief executive of Maersk, told the Financial Times that the current second quarter was developing very much in line with the first three months, which brought in the highest profits in the Danish group’s 114-year history.
But he added: “We assume a slowdown in the second half, a normalization. Visibility is quite low. We mainly see risks building up in the economy, in China with the Covid-19 policy where they are using these very hard lockdowns, some downgrades due to a very high oil price.
Maersk, which carries more than one in six containers transported by sea, is considered an indicator of world trade. Last week, it lowered its forecast for growth in the shipping industry this year to a potential slight decline.
It also raised its profit forecast for this year to $24 billion in underlying operating profit, up from its February estimate of $19 billion. “The momentum we currently have is enough to complete our upgrade,” Skou said on Wednesday.
Nonetheless, Skou noted that some economists predicted a recession in the United States towards the end of the year, although it was “too early” to tell.
“There are a number of factors that suggest we will see less growth in the second half of the year and into the next year,” he said, pointing to falling consumer and business confidence in Europe. and the United States as well as lower Chinese export orders.
Maersk was suffering from lower volumes due to a “breathtaking” sixth week of shutdowns in Shanghai, Skou said. It had not yet been dramatic.
The company’s after-tax profit for the first quarter was $6.78 billion, compared to $2.7 billion for the same quarter of 2021.