Despite the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, Hamburger Hafen and Logistik AG (HHLA) performed successfully in the 2021 financial year. Group revenue rose by 12.7 percent to € 1,465.4 million (previous year: € 1,299.8 million). The Group operating result (EBIT) increased by 84.7 percent year-on-year to € 228.2 million (previous year: € 123.6 million). Profit after tax and minority interests were 163.9 percent higher than in the previous year at € 112.3 million (previous year: € 42.6 million). Earnings per share thus amounted to € 1.50 (previous year: € 0.58). The return on capital employed (ROCE) was up 4.7 percentage points year-on-year at 10.6 percent (previous year: 5.9 percent). While container throughput rose by 2.5 percent compared with the previous year to 6,943 thousand standard containers (TEU), the transport volume increased by 10.0 percent to 1,690 thousand TEU.
Angela Titzrath, Chairwoman of HHLA’s Executive Board: “As logistics specialists, we are used to dealing with unusual challenges. Over the past two years, it was the pandemic that demanded much of us; now it is the war in Ukraine, which violates international law. HHLA is robust and stable enough and in a sufficiently solid financial position to continue to reliably fulfil its supply mandate in difficult times. Our results in the last financial year are an impressive demonstration of this. These results will strengthen us as we continue to implement our strategy, which is geared towards growth and sustainability. In order to meet the challenges of our customers, and of the future, we will position HHLA to become even more innovative, digital and sustainable.”
The listed Port Logistics subgroup generated revenue of € 1,435.8 million (previous year: € 1,269.3 million) and an operating result (EBIT) of € 212.6 million (previous year: € 110.3 million). The operating result from the previous year was influenced by additions to provisions amounting to € 43 million. Without these provisions, the operating result in the previous year would have been € 153 million. A strong increase in storage fees during the year as a result of the ongoing disruptions to global supply chains and major ship delays, which led to longer container dwell times and additional container movements at HHLA’s terminals in Hamburg, had a positive effect on the development of the revenue and earnings in the 2021 financial year. In addition, a higher subsidy for route prices of approximately € 11 million granted retroactively made a positive contribution to the Port Logistics subgroup’s earnings. Profit after tax and minority interests rose significantly to € 103.1 million (previous year: € 35.3 million). Earnings per class A share thus came to € 1.43 (previous year: € 0.50).
In the 2021 reporting year, there was a slight year-on-year increase in total container throughput at HHLA’s container terminals of 2.5 percent to 6,943 thousand standard containers (TEU) (previous year: 6,776 thousand TEU). At 6,328 thousand TEU, throughput volume at the three Hamburg container terminals was up 2.2 percent on the previous year (previous year: 6,193 thousand TEU). The positive development of cargo volumes was largely due to the Far East and North and South America shipping regions. Throughput volumes at the three international container terminals in Odessa, Tallinn and Trieste rose by 5.3 percent to 615 thousand TEU (previous year: 584 thousand TEU). Container throughput at the international terminals therefore exceeded the pre-pandemic level of 2019 by 0.4 percent.
The container transport volume increased by 10.0 percent to 1,690 thousand TEU (previous year: 1,536 thousand TEU). Rail continued to benefit more than road from the recovery in freight volume. Rail transport rose by 12.8 % year-on-year to 1,379 thousand TEU (previous year: 1,222 thousand TEU). In a persistently challenging market environment, road transport volumes of 312 thousand TEU were on a par with the previous year (previous year: 314 thousand TEU).
HHLA’s properties in the historical warehouse district Speicherstadt, a World Heritage Site, and Hamburg’s fish market area were much less affected by strong market fluctuations for office and commercial space during the pandemic and made steady progress in the 2021 financial year with almost full occupancy. In 2021, revenue amounted to € 38.1 million (previous year: € 38.1 million.) The revenue-based rent agreements, which were only reinstated during the course of the year due to the pandemic, and a planned revenue shortfall caused by the renovation of a property could be offset by increased rental income from individual properties.
The cumulative operating result (EBIT) increased by 18.0 percent to € 15.3 million (previous year: € 12.9 million). The reasons for this were a moderate decrease in maintenance volumes and, in particular, the correction of receivables written down in the course of the pandemic in the previous year.
The existing uncertainty on the global markets has been amplified by the escalation in the Russia-Ukraine conflict. We must assume that business activities at the HHLA container terminal in Odessa, which has been directly affected by the war, will cease, at least for the time being. Future developments cannot be foreseen, as they depend on the overall situation in the region. We can also expect that the Russia-Ukraine conflict will have unforeseeable consequences for the economy in Europe and beyond, particularly as a result of the sanctions announced and potential backlash against them.
Due to this uncertainty, it is not currently possible to issue a reliable forecast. The 2022 business forecast for HHLA is therefore based on the trends in volume and revenue expected in the context of the currently foreseeable macroeconomic environment. In addition to the afore explained expectations for the Container Terminal Odessa (CTO), storage fees in the Container segment are expected to normalise gradually over the course of the second half of the year. The disclosures regarding the potential operating performance are given in a wide enough range to reflect the foreseeable uncertainties stated above. Potential effects on the valuation of assets at the CTO cannot be reliably measured at the time of issuing this forecast so they have not been taken into account in the outlook.
In the Port Logistics subgroup, a moderate increase is expected in 2022 for both container throughput and container transport compared to the previous year. All in all, a moderate year-on-year increase in revenue is also expected. After the operating result (EBIT) in the 2021 financial year was positively impacted by the spike in storage fees and a higher subsidy for route prices granted retroactively, it may be possible, given the existing risks, to achieve EBIT within a range between € 160 million and € 195 million for the Port Logistics subgroup in the current financial year. Within this range, it is possible that segment EBIT will decrease strongly in the Container segment and increase moderately in the Intermodal segment.
For the Real Estate subgroup, a moderate year-on-year increase in revenue and EBIT is expected.
At Group level, HHLA expects to see a moderate increase in revenue and an operating result (EBIT) within a range between € 175 million and € 210 million.
In order to further increase productivity and expand capacity in the Container and Intermodal segments, investments at Group level are expected within a range between € 300 million and € 350 million in 2022. The Port Logistics subgroup will account for € 270 million to € 320 million of this amount. The forecast for capital expenditure is subject to the condition that there are no unplanned delays in additions to assets due to material shortages or long-term disruption to supply chains. In addition, HHLA continues to consider the scalability of its investments and will adjust these – where necessary – to future economic developments in order to safeguard the financial stability of the Group.
In 2022, HHLA will maintain its results-orientated dividend distribution policy, which aims to pay out between 50 and 70 percent of the profit for the year after minority interests.
At the Annual General Meeting on 16 June 2022, the Executive Board and Supervisory Board will propose a dividend of € 0.75 per dividend-entitled class A share. HHLA therefore continues to pursue its dividend policy of distributing between 50 and 70 percent, where possible, of the Port Logistics subgroup’s relevant net profit for the year to its shareholders.
Aerial view of the automated container yard at the HHLA Container Terminal Altenwerder in Hamburg