DP World ships big numbers as port capacities expand

DP World said its container handling business rose 14 per cent last year as the marine trade continues to recover towards pre-recession levels.

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DP World boosted its global container handling business by 14 per cent last year, dealing with nearly 50 million containers across its 50 terminals worldwide as marine trade reached pre-recession levels, says the company.

The world's third-largest ports operator enjoyed a continued economic recovery in the 28 countries in which it operates across the Asia-Pacific region, the Americas, Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Excluding new ports it began managing last year, its volumes grew 10 per cent, the company said.

"Handling 50 million TEU [twenty-foot equivalent units] across our global portfolio is a major milestone for DP World and puts our annual throughput for 2010 well ahead of historic peak levels seen in 2008, reflecting the faster growing emerging market focus of our portfolio," said Mohammed Sharaf, the chief executive of DP World. Slower growth was recorded at its UAE operations including its flagship port in Jebel Ali, as well as terminals in Abu Dhabi and Fujairah.

These terminals grew business by 4 per cent to 11.6 million terminals. DP World's general cargo business in the UAE - a key measure of the country's construction market - remained below 2009 levels, although the company said the second half of the year showed improvement.

Abu Dhabi's Mina Zayed port, which was managed by DP World last year, handled 518,000 TEUs, up 2 per cent over the previous year, Abu Dhabi Ports Company said yesterday.

Last year and this month, DP World said it delivered two major new capacity additions. It opened a new terminal in Callao, Peru, and expanded its existing terminal in Port Qasim, Karachi. In addition, it sold a 75 per cent stake in its Australian operations, raising US$1.5 billion (Dh5.51bn) in a transaction expected to close at the end of the first quarter. Mr Sharaf characterised the deal as a strategic alliance and a chance to reinvest proceeds into higher-growth emerging markets.

"We don't look at the Australia deal as a sale," he said. "We have brought in a strategic partner, who will be bringing more value to the business. We will be monetising some of the assets we have … and investing it in other parts of the world."

The company plans to list its shares on the London Stock Exchange in the second quarter, Mr Sharaf said.

He declined to comment on whether it was planning any other asset sales this year.

Global container traffic is forecast to grow at 7 per cent this year, according to industry estimates. Yuvraj Narayan, the chief financial officer of DP World, said he believed his company's performance would surpass that. "We have traditionally grown at higher rate than the market and we expect that trend to continue," he said.

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