Tuesday, January 10, 2012

MOL president warns of 'prolonged harsh' business environment


MOL president Koichi Muto says last March's Japanese earthquake has hit his company hard, compounding the effect of a deteriorating business environment, which coupled with a strong yen, high fuel prices and sinking rates due to oversupply, are combining to create an industry-wide downturn.

As a result, the first half of fiscal 2011 saw the biggest loss the group has ever suffered.

"The management environment surrounding MOL remains unpredictable and clouded by imminent oversupply of vessels as more new ships reach completion, and slumping business sentiment. These factors are expected to impact containership operations, especially, where conditions are extremely harsh with the impending completion of a large number of ultra large containerships, and the prolonged slump in the economies of Europe and the US," said Mr Muto.

"Large-scale completion of new vessels is expected to continue this year, so we should prepare ourselves for a prolonged harsh business environment, and approach it with due care," he warned.

"After 2013, however, the number of new vessels completed is expected to level off, providing light at the end of the tunnel. Over the medium to long term, we predict that the excessive production capacity of shipyards in China, two-thirds of which is privately operated, will be brought into balance by the market mechanism, and we expect the oversupply of ships to be relieved," said Mr Muto.

Talking about ensuring the survival of the company he identified four key areas to strengthen, namely to provide safe transportation services at a competitive price while effectively reducing the shipping impact on the environment.

The second key area is its financial performance. To strive to improve the balance sheet and cash flow in the short term through persistent efforts to trim costs and other measures. Thirdly, its performance, in terms of ensuring that cargo is delivered in perfect condition and on time. The fourth area for improvement is sales with the goal being to build stronger relationships with customers.

With regards to slow steaming, last year most MOL ships made more diligent efforts to apply slow steaming. Mr Muto said this practice not only reduces fuel consumption, but is also expected to help mitigate the impact of oversupply in vessels and help the environment.

These sentiments were echoed by in a speech from NYK president Yasumi Kudo: "Since stagnant demand in the west and oversupply of mega-ships are predicted, our ordering of new containerships should be suspended for a while, and a light-asset business model should be adopted whereby vessels and space would be leased as needed, thereby minimising downside risks and sustaining business," he said.

According to the NYK head, strong growth in emerging economies such as in Asia would be important for the carrier, in light of the difficult economic and trading conditions currently in Europe and the US.

"I am confident that we are heading in the right direction to grow further by differentiating ourselves and focusing on emerging markets such as Asia," said Mr Kudo.

"When we focus on the emerging countries we see a different outlook ... rapid economic growth in Asia and the developing countries, which account for more than half the population of the world, is the biggest opportunity, without any doubt.

"We cannot deny the risk of weaker demand in the west having a negative effect on Asia, which largely depends on exports. However, growing demand in Asia will be the key to strong growth in the region and overcoming the slump in the west.

"Now we see a major shift in the trend, Asia is no longer only an exporting region, but creating an enormous consumer market surpassing the US or Europe," he said.

picture: google.com / source: Shippingazette.com