THE combination of faster traffic growth and strong profit levels is attracting aggressive new players to enter the container terminal-operator business.
"Financial investors are particularly active at present, attracted by typical EBITA margins of between 20 per cent and 45 per cent," said Drewry analyst Neil Davidson.That means the world's container ports are to handle 840 million TEU a year by 2018, according to the 11th Global Container Terminal Operators Annual Review and Forecast by London's Drewry Maritime Research.
Projected throughput four years from now compares with 642 million TEU in 2013 and 674 million TEU projected for this year.
The 2018 projection is double the 2004 throughput figure of 363 million TEU with Africa and Greater China experiencing the most rapid growth, according to the report.
Overall, growth rates are expected to average an annual 5.6 per cent in the five years to 2018, compared with 3.4 per cent in 2013. That will boost average terminal use from 67 per cent today to 75 per cent in 2018, Drewry forecasts.
"The sector's strong financial performance and accelerating growth is encouraging new market entrants and renewed merger and acquisition activity in the container ports sector," said Mr Davidson.
Drewry has also added two companies to its league table of 24 terminal operators it considers to be global. Both China Merchants Holdings International (CMHI) and Bollore group have been growing aggressively. In the case of CMHI, further acquisitions are likely.
Other operators, such as Gulftainer and Yilport are also expanding rapidly and are challenging for inclusion in Drewry's league table. The composition of the top five players has changed little, except for new entrant China Merchants, is now in fifth place.
PSA again heads the table, by virtue of its scale and 20 per cent stake in Hutchison Port Holdings (HPH) which comes second. APM Terminals is third, followed by DP World.
Drewry said that by 2018, it expects both HPH and APM Terminals to be vying closely for the top spot in terms of capacity deployed.
Source : HKSG.