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HHLA Container Volume Gains as It Wins Rotterdam Traffic

Hamburger Hafen & Logistik AG, which handles about three of four containers at Hamburg’s port, saw rising volume last year as feeder traffic to the Baltic Sea and Russia grew amid a shrinking northern European market.

Full-year container volume rose 4.4 percent to 7.5 million standard 20-foot containers, or TEUs, preliminary data showed, the Hamburg-based terminal operator said in a statement today.

“Transshipment can move from one port to the other and we have taken a lot of business from Rotterdam,” Stefan Behn, a member of HHLA’s executive board, said at a business forum in Hamburg on Feb 5. before the release of the figures.

Europe’s second-biggest container port is competing with other north European ports such as Rotterdam and Antwerp for transshipment -- the container transfer from deep-sea ships from Asia to smaller feeder vessels destined mostly for the Baltics and Russia. Hamburg also needs to handle an increasing number of big ships, while a dredging project to deepen and widen the Elbe connecting the port and the North Sea has been delayed by an environmentalist lawsuit.

Earnings before interest and taxes fell about 15 percent to 158 million euros ($214 million), reaching the lower end of its full-year Ebit forecast of 155 million euros to 175 million euros, HHLA said. Sales rose to 1.16 billion euros from 1.13 billion euros.

Busy Peaks

The modernization of terminals and the busy peak times as a result of the growing numbers of large vessels “are creating difficulty” for the management, Christian Cohrs an analyst at Warburg Research, said in a note. “The market environment will remain challenging in 2014, though there are some promising signs on the horizon,” Cohrs said, referring to various indicators “pointing to a macroeconomic recovery.”

HHLA shares traded flat at 18.45 euros at 2:51 p.m. in Frankfurt. The stock has advanced 4.2 percent this year, giving the company a market value of 1.4 billion euros. HHLA will publish its complete set of 2013 results and a forecast for 2014 on March 27, it said.

Eurogate, HHLA’s biggest local rival, recorded an 8 percent rise in Hamburg volumes to 1.95 million TEUs, according to a statement on its website today. In Bremerhaven, Eurogate’s biggest operation, throughput fell 5 percent to 5.8 million TEUs.

The deep-water terminal in Wilhelmshaven, about 200 kilometers west of Hamburg, which opened in Sept. 2012, “is taking longer than originally expected to position itself in the market,” Eurogate said. Container volumes rose 192 percent to 76,000 TEUs. Originally, Eurogate expected annual volumes of 2.7 million TEU.

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