Comparison with the Forecast of the Previous Year
The guidance last adjusted in autumn 2017 was fulfilled. Container throughput considerably exceeded guidance for the 2017 financial year contained in the previous year’s Annual Report. The figures for revenue and operating result (EBIT) at Group level were therefore also better than anticipated. Delays in delivery and order execution meant that capital expenditure budgeted for the reporting period was not utilised in full.
Expected Earnings Position
The earnings forecast for the Group and the Port Logistics subgroup is primarily based on the anticipated macroeconomic and sector trends described above.
Despite the restructuring of significant service and key clients on the Asia–Europe trades during the previous year, there may be further changes in 2018, as well as temporary or structural shifts in services between the North Range ports, especially for price-sensitive transshipment loads. Against this background, HHLA expects container throughput in 2018 to be at par with the previous year. Container transport volumes are also expected to be largely unchanged from the previous year as Polish intermodal traffic is being realigned in the course of its integration into METRANS. At Group level, this is likely to result in revenue similar to that of the previous year.
The operating result (EBIT) of the Port Logistics subgroup is expected to rise markedly year on year in 2018. Earnings will be shaped largely by the Container and Intermodal segments. The operating result (EBIT) of the Real Estate subgroup is expected to be around € 15 million due to planned, large-scale maintenance work that does not qualify for capitalisation. A substantial increase in the operating result (EBIT) is anticipated at Group level.
Earnings in the Port Logistics subgroup and at Group level may continue to be depressed by exchange rate effects reported below EBIT as part of the financial result.
Nautical accessibility continues to be vital to the competitiveness of the Port of Hamburg and thus for HHLA. Future developments will be significantly affected by the dredging of the lower and outer stretches of the river Elbe, which is still outstanding. According to the ruling of the Federal Administrative Court on 9 February 2017, it is essential that the parties to the proceedings swiftly remedy the deficiencies identified by the court so that dredging of the navigation channel can commence as soon as possible.
Expected Financial Position
In principle, HHLA’s major investment activities can be scaled in line with demand. Due to the ongoing trend in ship sizes, the Group reserves the right to decide on investment activities that are not prompted purely by volume developments. Capital expenditure at Group level in 2018 is expected to be in the region of € 200 million. Most of this amount is attributable to the Port Logistics subgroup. In the Container segment, investment will primarily focus on the purchase of container gantry cranes, storage cranes and ground-handling vehicles for the container terminals in Hamburg. In the Intermodal segment, funds will be used to renew and expand the company’s own transportation and handling capacities.
HHLA will continue to pursue its yield-orientated dividend distribution policy, which aims to pay out between 50 % and 70 % of net profit for the year after non-controlling interests in the form of dividends.
Based on available liquidity reserves and the positive cash flows generated by anticipated earnings, HHLA is confident that sufficient financial funds will continue to be available in future, which could be supplemented by debt where necessary.