Maersk management given time to turn around 'supertanker'

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - The main shareholder and the chairman of Danish shipping group A.P. Moller-Maersk both backed management’s efforts to reshape the business, although other investors raised concerns on Tuesday about the rate of progress.

The MV Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller, the world's biggest container ship, arrives at the harbour of Rotterdam August 16, 2013. REUTERS/Michael Kooren

The company is a “supertanker” that takes a long time to turn around, Ane Maersk Mc-Kinney Uggla, chairwoman of the A.P. Moller Foundation, which owns a controlling stake in the company, told reporters before the company’s annual meeting.

“It’s been a tough year, but there have also been many good things in our transformation,” she added. She declined to set a date for when the turnaround should be done.

The world’s largest container shipper has struggled to convince all of its investors about a major restructuring plan announced in September 2016 to review its sprawling businesses and refocus efforts into transport and logistics.

Shares in Maersk, led by Chief Executive Soren Skou since June 2016, have drifted 7 percent lower over the past year. They were off 1 percent at 1125 GMT.

Leading Danish pension fund ATP, which held 1.4 percent of Maersk’s share capital as of the end of last year, was more critical.

“Sometimes it’s hard for us investors to assess whether the strategy is moving in the right direction or not,” senior vice president of ATP, Claus Wiinblad told the meeting.

“We lack indicators and to know where the logistics and terminal business will be in two to three years,” he added.


The company warned in February that growth in the number of shipping containers being moved around the world would deteriorate further this year due to the trade war between the United States and China.

Maersk board chairman Jim Hagemann Snabe said external factors were the reason that 2018 was not financially satisfying despite progress.

“We are seeing signs that the transformation has begun to work,” Snabe told the shareholders gathered in Copenhagen. “We’ve seen a very positive development in customer satisfaction,” he added.

He said the company would hold back on dividends for now as it aims to become financially strong, but that it would assess in August whether it would pay out an extraordinary dividend.

The company is one notch away from junk status by ratings agency Moody’s. It has faced a series of setbacks including last week abandoning plans to sell its offshore services business.

In 2017, Maersk sold its oil exploration and production business to French oil major Total.

On Thursday it will separately list its offshore drilling operation on the Copenhagen stock exchange.

Reporting by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen, writing by Teis Jensen; Editing by Louise Heavens/Keith Weir