Despite the most serious economic crisis of the post-war era, in the first nine months of 2009 Hamburger Hafen und Logistik AG (HHLA) generated a return well into double figures and confirmed its forecast
for the year as a whole. Revenues were admittedly 25.8 percent lower at 746 million euros, and operating result* was 50.5 percent down at 143.6 million euros. However, with a margin on results** of 19.3 percent, HHLA continued to demonstrate the profitability of its successful business model. Equity ratio at 41.9 percent remained at the previous year’s high level.
“We have achieved a remarkable result. After all, it is especially those markets in which we had in recent years enjoyed outstandingly dynamic growth that have collapsed disproportionately as a result of the
economic crisis,” stated Klaus-Dieter Peters, chairman of HHLA’s executive board, when presenting HHLA’s interim report for the period January to September 2009.
“Along with our cost-reduction measures and our comprehensive training programme, our timely measures to adapt in cargo handling, port logistics and hinterland transport, are putting HHLA in a position to
continue successfully weathering the challenges of this economic crisis.
We shall therefore be actively grasping the opportunities inherent in the forthcoming economic recovery,” said Peters. In an especially difficult economic situation, moreover, HHLA has suc-ceeded in maintaining the Group’s financial stability at a high level.
Volumes handled and transported recovered slightly in the third quarter, thus confirming an impression that the economy is regaining a firm footing. “For the next few months, however, we are reckoning with
an at most moderate upswing,” said Peters. In view of the continuing difficult economic environment and in all probability of a weaker fourth quarter for seasonal reasons, HHLA anticipates that in the year 2009 as
a whole, volumes handled at its container terminals in Hamburg and Odessa will probably be over 30 percent lower than the previous year’s record figures, with volumes transported on hinterland services over 20
percent lower. To generate turnover of one billion euros at group level for the year as a whole accordingly remains very ambitious.
Nevertheless, HHLA expects that EBIT margin on continuing activities will be run-ning at the upper end of the forecast range of between 14 and 16 percent.
A survey of essential Group figures (January to September 2009)
- Revenues fell by 25.8 percent to 746 million euros.
- Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) fell by 40.4 percent to 215.1 million euros.
- Earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) fell by 55 percent to 130 million euros.
- Earnings on activities maintained (EBIT excluding one-off expenditure on restructuring and the operating result from the Group companies combisped and CTL, that are classified as ‘activities not maintained’, have been disposed of and deconsolidated) fell by 50.5 percent to 143.6 million euros.
- At 72.1 million euros, earnings after tax were 61 percent below those for the corresponding period of the previous year.
- Equity ratio as at 30.9.2009 was 41.9 percent.
In the first nine months of 2009 revenues of the publicly-quoted Port Logistics sub-group, HHLA’s core business, fell by 26.4 percent to 724.8 million euros. EBIT from the continuing activities of the sub-group was 52.6 percent lower at 133.1 million euros. The Port Logistics sub-group thus generated 97.0 percent of Group turnover and
93.0 percent of Group EBIT.
As Europe’s leading hub for the exchange of goods with Asia, as well as Central and Eastern Europe, the Port of Hamburg was especially hard hit by the global economic crisis. The reason is the disproportionate
downturn in exchange of goods with these regions that had enjoyed such rapid growth in recent years. Container traffic between Asia and Europe in the first eight months of 2009, for instance, was 22 percent down on the same period of the previous year. Container throughput of ports in the Baltic region fell by as much as 50 percent and more – in the Port of St. Petersburg, for example.
On top of this come the consequences of the deepest-ever crisis in container shipping generally. For instance, serious overcapacities caused a drop of up to 80 percent in charter rates for feederships. In
combination with low fuel costs, feeder services from Benelux ports around the northern tip of Denmark and into the Baltic region can therefore be seen as commercially viable. For the moment, this attenuates the Port of Hamburg’s geographical advantages. The volume downturn at HHLA’s container terminals in Hamburg was therefore correspondingly steep. By comparison with the same period of the previous year, throughput in Hamburg and Odessa in the first nine months of 2009 was 34.8 percent lower at 3.685 million standard con-tainers (TEU).
Programme of measures
Against this difficult economic background, HHLA has concentrated on limiting the negative repercussions of the crisis on jobs and group profitability. At the same time, HHLA Executive Board’s top priority
remains to use comprehensive adaptation measures to create the capability to actively grasp growth opportunities in the event of a recovery in the world economy.
- Being implemented by HHLA for its 3,500 staff at its Hamburg base since the beginning of July, the Securing the Future project is setting the pace for the whole of Germany. This secures jobs with the
aid of short-time working as one measure, reduces costs and at the same time facilitates forward-looking human resources development. More than 350 individua-lized training courses, mainly for the professional
qualifications Certified Specialist for Port Logistics and Certified Specialist for Port Operations, have already started. Flexible use of needs-related short-time working for over 2,000 HHLA staff in Hamburg
since 1 July 2009 has also proved its value. Along with the reduction in the deployment of external staff, the elimination of overtime and the introduction of part-time work for older staff, in the second half of
2009 the volume of work at the Hamburg locations will have been reduced by at least 20 percent on the previous year’s.
- Investments have once again been spread over a longer period on account of the difficult economic climate, and reduced to around 180 million euros for the year as a whole from the intially planned total of
355 million euros. Investments in boosting efficiency of container handling, for example in adjusting to growing ship sizes, are being maintained unchanged to facilitate future growth.
- For the first nine months of the year, HHLA has succeeded in cutting expenses on materials, including those for the use of external staff, by over 30 percent. Despite the high proportion of fixed costs customary in the industry, for the year as a whole savings on operating expenditure of altogether 160 to 180 million euros on the previous year will be attainable.
* Operating result from continuing activities (EBIT excluding one-off restructuring charge and the operating result from the discontinued Group companies combisped and CTL, the former of which has been disposed
of and deconsolidated)
** Relating to the operating result from continuing activities.