Japanese Carriers Swing to Profit on Growth in Trade, Pick-up in Freight Rates

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ReutersTOKYO, July 31 (Reuters) – Japan’s big three shippers on Monday reported profits for the first quarter, bouncing back from losses a year earlier and raising hopes the firms could be emerging from the industry’s worst-ever downturn on record.

Mitsui OSK Lines swung to a 1.1 billion yen ($10 million) operating profit in April-June from a loss of 3.6 billion yen a year earlier, as a strong U.S. economy lifted freight volumes on routes between Asia and North America to record levels in the last quarter.

It now expects an 18 billion yen operating profit in the year through next March, double its previous forecast for 9 billion yen.

Nippon Yusen booked operating income of 3.6 billion yen compared with a loss of 11 billion yen a year earlier, while Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha posted an operating profit of 3.9 billion yen compared with a year-ago loss of 14.8 billion yen.

The three shippers said in October that they would merge their container units to create the world’s sixth-largest fleet to better cope with a global slump that led to the collapse of South Korea’s Hanjin Shipping Co Ltd.

But prices for shipping containers have since somewhat recovered, helped by growing trade and consolidation in the industry.

Mitsui OSK shares ended 3.3 percent higher while Nippon Yusen shares rose 1 percent and Kawasaki Kisen’s stock fell 1 percent. ($1 = 110.5200 yen) (Reporting by Ritsuko Ando; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

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