[from Drewry Shipping Consultants]
- Container shipping companies’ 3Q23 financial results showcased a sharp dip in profits or even losses. On a group level, eleven liners (which report quarterly results) among our portfolio of 13 companies reported an average slump of 54.6% YoY in their 3Q23 topline. Operating costs declined 18.1% YoY amid falling chartering costs and lowering bunker prices. However, the cost reduction was insufficient to offset the plunge in topline; thus, EBIT contracted 94.1% YoY on average.
- The Drewry Container Equity Index tumbled 28.1% YTD 2023 (ending 22 November), driven by lowering freight rates (WCI: -30.7% in YTD 2023), which squeezed earnings over the quarters. On the contrary, the S&P 500 posted an 18.4% growth. The Drewry Container Equity Index declined 3.4% in the month ending 22 November 2023. Talking about equity prices individually, APMM’s stock price fell 9.0% amid EBIT loss for its Ocean segment in 3Q23, staff cuts and reduced capex guidance, highlighting APMM’s efforts toward reducing costs faced with the bleak industry outlook. Hapag-Lloyd’s stock price slumped 22.2% as its EBIT margin (3Q23: 5.1%) slid below its pre-pandemic level (3Q19: 7.8%). ZIM became the first carrier to report impairment of assets worth USD 2.0bn in 3Q23, and its stock price fell 18.1%. Meanwhile, China-exposed container companies benefitted from the positive sentiment arising from the proposed fiscal stimulus by the Chinese government, possibly boosting the out-of-China and intra-Asia trades. Asian stocks in the broader index rose 2.0% to 19.4% in the month ending 22 November 2023.
- Mainly driven by weak earnings prospects, the Drewry Container Equity Index trades at a P/B of 0.5x, a 47.5% discount to its pre-pandemic average (2013-19). We expect freight rates to fall sharply in 2024 and increasingly incur losses. Thus, we expect the multiple to remain suppressed.
- As the fleet of container shipping companies expands, the charter market softens. For instance, 1-year TC rates declined 14.2% and 52.5% YoY in October for vessels sized 1,110 teu and 8,500 teu. Rates declined more for larger vessels as these constitute the majority of the order book and new deliveries. The YoY decline has continued since October 2022, but rates improved slightly during April-May 2023. However, this was not due to the fundamentally strong market but MSC and CMA CGM’s aggressive chartering of vessels to expand their fleets. Now that the two companies have stopped chartering in vessels, the charter market continues to decline.
- Driven by the softening charter market, second-hand asset prices are also weakening. In October, on a YoY basis, prices for five-year-old vessels (2,700 teu and 7,200 teu) contracted 30.6% and 31.5%, and for 10-year-old ships, prices tumbled between 36.7% and 53.2%. Contrary to the sale and purchase market, newbuild prices (1,500 teu and 14,000 teu) continue to increase and rose by an average of 2.2% YoY, led by a shortage of capacity in shipyards.
- The charter market and the S&P market have a direct impact on container shipping companies’ earnings. Costs related to chartering-in slots or vessels from other non-operating vessel owners form a significant portion of container shipping companies’ cost structure. In the 3Q23 results, this cost was reduced,
marginally relieving downside pressure on the operating margin of container shipping companies. In line with the declining charter market, we expect this trend to continue in 4Q23. We also expect other companies to follow ZIM in reporting impairment losses as prices for older vessels continue to fall.
Read the report [archived PDF] for additional graphs.