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COPENHAGEN, March 6 (Reuters) – Danish shipping company Norden on Wednesday reported a slim fourth quarter operating profit but said it expected markets to remain challenging in 2013.

The company reported an operating profit of $0.5 million, down from $39 million in the fourth quarter last year which beat analysts’ average estimate for a $17 million loss in a Reuters poll.

The global shipping industry has struggled with a slump now into its fifth year, due to weak demand and overcapacity which has knocked freight rates to loss-making levels for many operators.

Norden said it expected 2013 to be another tough year but forecast a gradual improvement in tanker freight rates and a stabilisation of freight rates at low levels in dry cargo.

“We enter a challenging 2013 in a strengthened position, and we will now focus on investing in fuel efficient dry cargo vessels, of which we have already ordered 7 in recent months,” Chief Executive Carsten Mortensen said in a statement.

The company forecast capital expenditure of $70-80 million in 2013 and full-year operating profit before depreciation and amortisation of $15-45 million.

The company proposed a dividend of 3 Danish crowns per share, making a total of $22 million. In addition, it announced a share buy-back programme of up to $30 million.

Shares in the company were down 1.9 percent by 0804 GMT, underperforming the Copenhagen main index, which was down 0.2 percent. (Reporting by Johan Ahlander. Editing by Jane Merriman)

(c) 2013 Thomson Reuters, Click For Restrictions

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