Maersk Swings to Loss on Cyberattack, Oil Unit Charge

By Costas Paris and Ian Walker Features Dow Jones Newswires

A.P. Moeller-Maersk A/S booked a quarterly loss, hurt by a recent cyberattack and an impairment charge on its offshore oil-exploration unit, but executives predicted a stronger performance as a shipping industry recovery takes hold.

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The Danish shipping and oil conglomerate reported a third-quarter net loss of $1.56 billion, compared with a profit of $429 million a year earlier. Revenue rose to $8.06 billion, compared with $7.07 billion.

Maersk shares in Copenhagen fell more than 6% on the results.

The bottom line was impacted by a $1.75 billion impairment in Maersk Drilling and a $250 million to $300 million hit from a cyberattack in June that left its shipping unit reeling for weeks. Maersk plans to spin off the drilling unit, which operates oil and gas rigs mainly in the North Sea. Over the past year, the company has been paring its energy businesses, including its Maersk Oil and Maersk Tanker divisions.

The cyberattack, which security experts dubbed Petya, brought down the company's computer systems, with malware infecting networks used by its container businesses. That prompted system shutdowns that meant several of its shipping terminals around the world were unable to operate.

Maersk said it moved 130,000 fewer containers because of the attack and analysts estimate it lost another 260,000 containers worth of bookings. Maersk Line, the group's shipping unit and the world's biggest container operator, moves more than five million, 20-foot containers every quarter.

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"We were not able to grow with the market because of the attack," Chief Executive Soren Skou said in an interview. "But market fundamentals are quite strong with a solid [annual] growth of 5% and we can restore our performance in coming quarters."

Mr. Skou said Maersk is investing tens of millions of dollars to limit the damage of another attack by improving its IT defenses. "All businesses are subject to cyberattacks, some of which are state-sponsored," he said. Thousands of companies were affected by the attack, he said. "This is not the work of teenage kids in a garage."

Container shipping, which moves the vast majority of the world's manufactured goods, is emerging from one of the worst industry downturns, with demand outgrowing capacity for the third consecutive quarter.

Maersk Line, which contributes more than half of the group's revenue, made a $211 million underlying profit for the quarter, compared with a loss of $122 a year earlier. Freight rates rose 14% on year in the quarter, but volumes dropped 2.5% due to the cyberattack, while fuel costs were up 26%.

Write to Costas Paris at costas.paris@wsj.com and Ian Walker at ian.walker@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

November 07, 2017 10:54 ET (15:54 GMT)