Container volumes across the global portfolio of China Merchants Port Holdings (CMPort) rose slightly by last year, with the operator attributing the lack of momentum to US-China trade friction and geopolitical tensions.
The group’s ports handled a total container throughput of 111.72m teu up by 2.4% over the previous year, while bulk cargo dropped by 10.5% to 449m tonnes.
Revenue fell by 12.4% to HK$8.9bn (US$1.1bn), largely due to the disposal of an equity interest in Shenzhen Chiwan Wharf Holdings during the previous year.
There was a 15.4% increase in net profit in 2019, totalling HK$8.4bn (US$1.1bn), which includes a gain of HK$3.3bn (US$400m) from selling certain parcels of land at Qianhai. Recurrent profit fell by 3.1% to HK$4.2bn (US$500m).
The group’s hubs in mainland China handled 83.67m teu, up by 3.6%, benefiting from volume growth in the Yangtze River Delta region as well as its participation in the merger of terminals in Tianjin.
CMPort’s operations in Hong Kong handled 7.21m teu in total, a decrease of 6.1%, while its overseas ports handled 20.84m teu, a 0.9% rise.
Colombo International Container Terminals Limited (CICT) in Sri Lanka and TCP Participações S.A. (TCP) in Brazil recorded significant growth of 7.4% and 32% respectively.
Meanwhile, the wheeled and bulk cargo business in Hambantota International Port Group progressed from 0.18-0.50m tonnes over the year.
The operator has focused on upgrades at its flagship West Shenzhen hub, including channel dredging, berth upgrading and crane heightening, to resolve the key historical bottleneck of channels’ navigation capacities.
Among foreign ports, the company noted its commitment to “developing South Asia’s regional leading ports and regional hub for international shipping in Sri Lanka as well as establishing a South Asian port network centred on Sri Lanka”.
The group is looking to take advantage of opportunities arising from China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as well as “international industries migration”.
After identifying Southeast Asian and South Asian gateway ports as key investment targets, it is acquiring up to 10 terminals from CMA CGM in Southeast Asia, South Asia, Europe and Caribbean Sea, via its Terminal Link subsidiary.
The company is looking to explore the “port-park-city” development model, beginning operations at Djibouti International Free Trade Zone in early 2019 and registering 78 enterprises in the zone by the end of the year.
CMPort is also following a digitalisation strategy, having established CM ePort, an e-commerce platform for port and shipping industry in its subsidiary terminals, starting with West Shenzhen Port Zone.
Furthermore, the first rubber-tyred gantry (RTG) crane remote control operation under a 5G network is underway at Mawan Container Terminal.
The group anticipates a fragile recovery for the global economy in 2020 due to unfavourable factors including trade uncertainties and COVID-19.