“TWENTY-twenty will forever be remembered for the COVID-19 pandemic, that negatively impacted our lives, jobs, businesses and the global economy,” A.P. Møller – Mærsk CEO Søren Skou said in his introduction to the company’s results report.

“I am proud that we have accelerated our transformation and delivered earnings growth during every quarter of 2020, despite very different market conditions starting with strong COVID-19 impact in the first half to a rebound in Q4,” Mr Skou said.

“Our customers want us to help them build more resilient supply chains and buy more end-to-end services and, as a consequence, our logistics business more than doubled earnings in 2020. We are today a profitable, growing logistics company with a broad offering of ocean and air transportation, port services and logistical capabilities including warehousing, custom services and lead logistics.”

Mr Skou said the company left 2020 with a strong balance sheet and little debt.

“We are well equipped to deal with the ongoing market volatility and also benefit from a world that hopefully starts to re-open,” he said.

Maersk reported that its underlying EBITDA grew 44%. to US$8.2 billion and revenue grew to US$39.7 billion in 2020 compared to US$38.9 billion last year. While the demand surge in the second half of year created supply chain bottlenecks, including vessel and container shortages, and led to higher rates that contributed approximately US$1.5 billion to results, Ocean further improved its intrinsic performance by focusing on costs, agile capacity management and launching new digital offerings.

Logistics and services grew to US$7 billion, compared to US$6.3 billion last year, and EBITDA improved 110%. to US$454m, supported by the acquisition of Performance Team as well as improved performance in intermodal, air freight forwarding and warehousing and distribution.

Gateway terminals saw a decrease in revenue of 3.9% to US$3.2 billion in 2020 because of lower volumes due to impact from the pandemic. EBITDA increased by 8.3% to US$989m, reflecting an improved EBITDA margin to 31% driven by higher revenue per move and cost reductions in several terminals.

Maersk said with the current outlook, there continues to be a high degree of uncertainty related to the impact from COVID-19 on the economic growth and global demand patterns.

The company said it expects another year of earnings growth and transformation progress.

“We expect the current, exceptional situation to continue into 2021 with Q1 to be stronger than Q4, followed by a normalisation thereafter, and announce a guidance for the full-year 2021 of an underlying EBITDA in the range of US$8.5 billion to 10.5 billion, compared with US$8.3 billion in 2020. This is equivalent to an underlying EBIT guidance of US$4.3 billion to 6.3 billion.

Ocean is expected to grow in line with the global container demand at an expected 3-5% in 2021, with the highest growth seen in the first half-year.