(Adds details, quotes, share price)
* 2011 net profit 18.08 bln DKK vs avg forecast 17.29 bln
* Group sees 2012 results positive, but lower than 2011
* Sees more container shipping losses, weaker oil in 2012
* Shares drop 3 pct, underperforming wider market
COPENHAGEN, Feb 27 (Reuters) - Danish shipping and oil group A.P. Moller-Maersk said on Monday that its 2011 profits fell by more than a third, hit by losses in container shipping, and 2012 would be weaker still.
Maersk, sometimes seen as a barometer of world trade as its fleet makes up roughly 16 percent of container shipping capacity, said it expected the shipping markets to remain difficult for some time as a result of overcapacity.
“Therefore, and because of the significant investments and commitments made in 2011, the group will downscale its growth ambitions for the shipping segments in 2012,” A.P. Moller-Maersk said.
Full-year net profit at the conglomerate fell to 18.08 billion crowns ($3.27 billion) from 28.22 billion a year earlier, narrowly beating analysts’ average estimate of 17.29 billion in a Reuters poll.
The result was in line with the group’s November guidance for a 2011 profit of $3.1 billion to $3.5 billion, though analysts’ estimates had ranged widely from 13.61 billion crowns to 20.89 billion, which reflected the difficulty in forecasting the crisis-hit shipping business’ results.
“The A.P. Moller-Maersk Group expects a positive result (in 2012) lower than the 2011 result,” the group said in a statement, with the Maersk Liner business making a loss.
Volume transported by the group increased by 11 percent in 2011, and the volume growth was above the general market, so it gained market share, the company said.
But the average freight rate, including bunker fuel adjustments, fell by 8 percent from 2010 to $2,828 per forty-foot unit and was 12 percent lower in the fourth quarter than in the same period a year earlier, Maersk said.
The group said it expected 2012 Maersk Oil results to be significantly below the 2011 result, owing to a 20 percent drop in its oil and gas production to around 265,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day at an average oil price of $105 per barrel.
The global financial crisis has hit world trade and demand for cargo, depressed freight rates and caused shipping losses largely due to a glut of capacity built during the boom years.
Maersk Line announced 10 days ago that it would cut capacity on Asia-Europe routes by 9 percent to combat low freight rates, a move that analysts have called a strategy shift for Maersk, which had earlier tolerated losses.
A.P. Moller-Maersk’s B-series shares were down 3 percent at 0813 GMT, underperforming the Copenhagen bourse’s bluechip index , which had lost 0.6 percent. ($1 = 5.5231 Danish crowns) (Reporting by John Acher; Editing by Will Waterman)