Denmark’s Maersk to spin off drilling

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A.P. Moller-Maersk said it would spin off its offshore drilling operation and list it in Copenhagen next year, the latest move by the Danish shipping company to focus entirely on transport and logistics. Maersk, which cut its full-year profit outlook this month, sold Maersk Oil to French oil major Total last year in a $7.5 billion deal as part of a restructuring under Soren Skou, who became chief executive in 2016.

Skou used to head Maersk’s container business and is a long-time veteran of the Danish firm whose mainstay industry is emerging from a fierce price war as too many ships chased too little business, denting profitability.

However, a slower-than-expected rise in freight rates combined with ballooning bunker fuel costs have triggered recent profit warnings from Maersk and rival Hapag-Lloyd, according to Reuters.

Skou said on Friday that the development in freight rates had been positive and that the company had regained control of its costs in the second quarter after a rise linked to its acquisition of Hamburg Sud shipping line.

But Maersk said that its second-quarter profitability had been hit by an almost 30 percent spike in the price of bunker fuel, which is used to power its ships.

By divesting its oil and gas business, Maersk can no longer use oil as a hedge against downturns in the container market, although it said it was looking at a recovery for the remainder of the year, driven by lower costs and higher freight rates.

Maersk said that following the demerger of Maersk Drilling, in which the Maersk family’s holding company will retain a significant stake, a “material part” of its remaining shares in France’s Total, which it acquired as part of the oil unit sale, will be distributed to shareholders.

In March Maersk took a 3.7 percent stake, or 97.5 million shares, in Total. It sold stock worth $1.2 billion in July, leaving it with 78.3 million Total shares.

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