Hapag-Lloyd defers ship deliveries after loss widens

FRANKFURT, March 19 Tue Mar 19, 2013 9:01am EDT

FRANKFURT, March 19 (Reuters) - German shipping company Hapag-Lloyd posted higher losses for 2012 due to unexpectedly low cargo volumes as a result of the global downturn and high energy costs, prompting it to defer the delivery of new ships.

The company, which is currently in talks to merge with rival Hamburg Sued, reported a net loss of 128 million euros ($166 million) for 2012, compared with a loss of 29 million for the previous year.

"Although... we performed well compared to the rest of the industry, earnings fell short of our expectations and are not satisfactory," Chief Executive Michael Behrendt said on Tuesday.

The company said it had postponed the delivery of three new ships it had ordered from the second half of 2013 to March and April 2014 due to low forecast transport volumes.

Hapag-Lloyd cited forecasts from IHS Global Insight predicting transport volumes in worldwide container shipping would rise by 3 percent in 2013, compared with 6 percent for the following years.

The company said it aimed to improve earnings in 2013 and cut costs so that it could get back to paying a dividend again.

($1 = 0.7717 euros) (Reporting by Victoria Bryan; Editing by Maria Sheahan)

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