SWISS transport and logistics company Kuehne+Nagel’s start to the 2021 business year was marked by a strong demand in transport services, especially for pharma and e-commerce fulfilment.

Kuehne+Nagel achieved an excellent result in this environment, achieving net turnover of over CHF 6bn (Swiss francs), earnings before tax of CHF 431m and earnings for the period of CHF 318m – all significantly higher year-on-year.

Dr Detlef Trefzger, CEO of Kuehne+Nagel International AG, said, “Exactly one year ago, when we were still at the beginning of the pandemic, we decided to commit to our proven strategy.

“Upon reflection, we are assured that we chose the correct path: in the first quarter of 2021, we were well-prepared to serve our customers’ robust demand for high quality logistics services despite the tense market environment.

“We expect this environment to remain challenging for the remainder of another atypical year.”

The positive profit trend reversal in sea logistics, already noted in the second half of 2020, continued in the first quarter of 2021. Kuehne+Nagel delivered intensified service to meet exceedingly high customer demands particularly in the United States, in an environment of limited container capacities, reduced terminal productivity and increasing demand. Volume growth was particularly strong in the consumer goods segment.

Container volumes in the first quarter of 2021 were up 2% year-on-year at 1.1m TEU, despite a decline in recyclables demand. The unit’s net turnover was nearly CHF 2.4bn and EBIT CHF 206m. The conversion rate reached a record high of 42.7%.


With a new alert feature in Kuehne+Nagel’s online Seaexplorer platform, sea logistics customers are informed promptly about irregularities in container transport.

“This transparency proved particularly helpful to remedy disrupted supply chains during the Suez Canal incident in March,” the company said.

Air logistics saw a return to trade volume growth in the first quarter of 2021, the first time in more than two years. This was contrasted by limited global freight capacities. Kuehne+Nagel’s expertise in dealing with this bottleneck was particularly crucial for the transport of pharma and essential goods.

Airfreight volumes developed positively, reaching 433,000 tonnes in the first quarter of 2021 (16% year-on-year). Combined with strong yields, net turnover improved to CHF 1.7bn and EBIT to CHF 163m. The conversion rate was 40.5%.

In the first quarter of 2021, contract logistics returned to organic growth of 4%, in line with the market. As a result of the divestment of part of the UK business as of 1 January, turnover declined in the first quarter of 2021.

The pharma business and e-commerce fulfilment activities again had a positive impact. In March, the business unit entered into a strategic partnership with Jointown, the largest non-state pharmaceutical distributor in China.