Shipping group CMA CGM powers ahead, founder retires

PARIS (Reuters) - Shipping company CMA CGM reported another quarterly rise in sales and profit on Friday, helped by improving freight rates after a prolonged sector downturn that sparked large-scale consolidation.

French-based CMA CGM, the world’s third-largest container shipping group, posted a third-quarter net profit of $323 million, up from $219 million in the previous quarter and a $268 million loss a year earlier.

In addition to the healthier freight rates, the company said it also benefited from participation in a global vessel alliance to boost volumes.

The company’s core operating margin rose to 10 percent, which it said was the highest in the sector and surpassed the previous quarter’s 8.9 percent.

Sales reached $5.7 billion, up nearly 28 percent from a year earlier, supported by an 11.6 percent increase in volumes and 14.4 percent rise in average revenue per container.

For the full year, CMA CGM said it expects its operating performance to show a strong improvement from 2016 but did not give precise targets.

CMA CGM, which is based in the southern French port city of Marseille, said the Ocean Alliance -- a vessel-sharing partnership with other lines -- had helped to boost volumes on Asia-U.S. and Asia-Europe routes.

The group has also been strengthened by its takeover last year of the Singapore-based APL line and it recently ordered nine new giant ships.

CMA CGM announced that its board had appointed Rodolphe Saade as chairman in addition to his chief executive role, completing a handover from his father, Jacques, who founded the family business.

Rodolphe Saade became CEO in February after leading negotiations on the APL deal - the biggest acquisition in the company’s history.

Jacques Saade, who established the firm in 1978 after leaving Lebanon, his country of birth, will have the honorary title of founder-chairman, the company said.

Reporting by Gus Trompiz; Editing by David Goodman