Softening demand growth coupled with larger liner shipping alliances and bigger ships is moving the container ports industry towards a value sector from growth sector, albeit still highly profitable, according to a report released by global shipping consultancy Drewry.
Global and international container terminal operators are faced with the dual challenges of weaker demand growth and rising operating and capital costs due to larger vessels and alliances. On the stock markets, ports are increasingly seen as a mature value sector rather than a growth sector.
Global container port demand is forecast by Drewry to grow by less than 3% per annum over the next five years with projections softened in particular due to the sharp slowdown in China’s exports.
In response, terminal operators and investors have been reviewing capacity expansion plans. Many projects within the five-year forecast horizon are already too far advanced to change significantly, but those scheduled to appear later in the period are subject to reconsideration in terms of timing and scale.
For terminal operators, the focus is switching from greenfield developments to Merger & Acquisition (M&A) activity, with a number of major deals already in the pipeline and more likely to come.
“It is clear that global and international terminal operators are fundamentally reviewing their strategies, becoming cooler on greenfield projects and more interested in M&A opportunities. A natural response to the increasing size of liner alliances is for terminal operators to look to consolidate terminal ownership in parallel,” Neil Davidson, Drewry’s senior analyst for ports and terminals, said.