In the first three months of the year, changing conditions have had an impact on both the revenue and the earnings of the Hamburger Hafen und Logistik AG (HHLA). The company recorded a moderate decrease in revenue and a significant fall in earnings which had a corresponding impact on profitability. Container throughput saw a moderate decrease, while container transport declined significantly. This is attributable to stormy conditions in Northern Europe as well as the first signs of slowing economic activity in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. On the other hand, the Real Estate segment once again achieved higher revenue and earnings. All in all, this led to a Group revenue of € 335.7 million (- 3.4 %). The operating result (EBIT) decreased by € 23.0 million, or 38.6 %, to € 36.7 million.
Angela Titzrath, Chairwoman of HHLA’s Executive Board: “Our expectations for the current financial year were marked by optimism; however, we are aware that external conditions for our business have been changing for some time due to a range of factors. The effects of the storms in the spring and the rapid spread of the coronavirus pandemic have nevertheless left a mark on our performance figures. We have to adapt to a situation that we have never experienced in our company’s history and that we cannot influence. 2020 will be one of the most challenging years in the history of HHLA. However, we will use our experience to find ways out of this crisis and continue to successfully develop HHLA.”
The listed Port Logistics subgroup recorded a moderate decrease of 3.7 % in revenue to € 327.4 million in the first three months (previous year: € 339.8 million). The operating result (EBIT) decreased sharply by 41.7 % to € 32.5 million (previous year: € 55.7 million). The EBIT margin decreased by 6.5 percentage points to 9.9 %.
In the Container segment, the throughput volume at HHLA’s container terminals decreased by 3.7 % overall to 1,796 thousand standard containers (TEU) (previous year: 1,865 thousand TEU). At the three Hamburg container terminals, the throughput volume of 1,652 thousand TEU was down 4.1 % on the same period last year (previous year: 1,722 thousand TEU). Ship delays resulting from the severe storms over Northern Europe and blank sailings resulting from the coronavirus pandemic led to a moderate decrease in cargo volumes from the Far East. Handling volumes at the international container terminals in Odessa and Tallinn were on a par with the previous year at 144 thousand TEU (previous year: 143 thousand TEU).
Revenue decreased year-on-year by 2.6 % to € 195.6 million in the first quarter of 2020 (previous year: € 200.9 million). This was primarily caused by the decrease in volumes resulting from the pandemic. The average revenue per container handled at the quayside rose by 1.1 % year-on-year. This was due to an advantageous modal split with a high proportion of hinterland volumes and a temporary increase in income from storage fees due to longer dwell times brought about by weather-related delays. Primarily due to the drop in volume, the operating result (EBIT) declined by € 12.0 million or 31.7 % year-on-year to € 25.8 million (previous year: € 37.8 million). The EBIT margin decreased by 5.6 percentage points to 13.2 %.
In the Intermodal segment, container transport decreased by 5.1 % to 378 thousand TEU (previous year: 398 thousand TEU). The decrease in road transport was much more marked than that of rail transport. The latter decreased year-on-year by 3.3 % to 300 thousand TEU (previous year: 310 thousand TEU). The significant fall in maritime traffic from both the North German and Adriatic seaports was partially offset by strong growth in continental traffic. The downward trend of the previous quarters continued for road transport. Largely due to weak growth in the Hamburg region and a persistently challenging market environment, road transport volumes fell by 11.4 % year-on-year to 78 thousand TEU (previous year: 88 thousand TEU). At € 116.8 million, revenue dropped significantly by 5.8 % compared with the previous year’s figure (previous year: € 123.9 million); this decline was somewhat stronger than that of the transport volume. Despite a slight increase in the rail share of HHLA’s total intermodal transportation from 77.9 % to 79.4 %, average revenue per TEU decreased as a result of the disproportionately strong decrease in freight flows with longer transport distances. The operating result (EBIT) fell by 31.9 % to € 17.2 million during the reporting period (previous year: € 25.3 million). This marked decrease was primarily due to decreases in volume and revenue, as well as to increased fluctuations in import and export cargo with a resulting fall in capacity utilisation of rail systems.
The worldwide coronavirus pandemic has led government bodies and authorities in almost all affected countries to implement extraordinary measures to contain the spread of the virus.
The measures mostly aim to minimise social contact between people. Both at a national level and in international transportation, this is leading to a contraction in economic activity whose true impact and duration cannot be reliably gauged. The contraction is affecting all areas of the eco-nomy, including international trade, which is critical to HHLA.
It is not possible to make any reliable forecasts under the current conditions, but we can assume that revenue and operating result (EBIT) for the Port Logistics subgroup will be strongly below previous year. This is primarily due to the possible at least temporarily sharp declines in container throughput and transport.
In a declining market environment, HHLA’s properties in the Speicherstadt historical warehouse district and Hamburg’s fish market area recorded stable revenue growth. Revenue increased moderately again by 4.0 % year-on-year to € 10.1 million (previous year: € 9.8 million) as a result of virtually full occupancy in both quarters in 2020 as in the previous year. The cumulative operating result (EBIT) increased by 6.0 % to € 4.1 million as a result of revenue growth in both quarters, and maintenance volumes remained constant (previous year: € 3.9 million).
It is thought possible that the operating result (EBIT) for the Real Estate subgroup will see a strong decrease against the previous year.