Shipping and oil group A.P. Moeller, Denmark's biggest private firm and owner of world-leading container line Maersk Sealand, yesterday reported a 79 per cent jump in 2000 pre-tax profits to 8.64 billion crowns ($1.02 billion). But analysts were not satisfied with the result as it came in 18 per cent lower than a market consensus forecast, and the group's two listed Copenhagen Stock Exchange shares fell over four per cent, shedding half of the last week's gains ahead of the announcement.

"The result disappoints on several points," BankInvest portfolio manager Henrik Oeverup told Reuters. At 1420 GMT, the D/S Svendborg share traded 2,400 crowns or 2.5 per cent down at 96,000 crowns, while the twin D/S 1912 stock was 3,000 crowns or four per cent off at 71,000 crowns.

A.P. Moeller said the higher result stemmed from increased volumes in container services partly as a result of the addition of Sea-Land and better markets in most shipping areas. In 1999 Maersk Line acquired U.S.-based international container line Sea-Land and South African shipping group Safmarine for a total of $1 billion.

Higher prices for oil and gas and increased oil production also benefited the company. "The combined profit was considerably above that of 1999, as expected," A.P. Moeller said in a statement. A.P. Moeller's total group turnover was 84.3 billion crowns, up from 49 billion crowns in 1999.

Shipping activities accounted for 75.4 billion crowns or 89 per cent of total revenues but only half of total pre-tax profits, which disappointed analysts. "In the latter part of the year the market declined and freight rates came under pressure. The result was by and large as expected," A.P. Moeller said.

Oil and gas activities in the Danish part of the North Sea stood for a modest 10 per cent of turnover but 50 per cent of the result. A.P. Moeller said it expected higher earnings from both shipping and oil and gas operations this year compared to 2000 without specifying any figures. "Reduced growth in the U.S. economy affects developments in container markets negatively. The result for the container activities, however, is expected to be higher than that of 2000," it said.

A.P. Moeller expects production of oil and gas in the North Sea to be approximately the same as in 2000. Last year its North Sea oil production rose 10 per cent to 14.1 million tonnes. Gas production fell four per cent to 6.4 billion cubic metres. "But the result for oil and gas operations is expected to be better, partly due to lower depreciation costs," it said.

The 2001 result for associated and other companies in the group was seen at the same level as in 2000, A. P. Moeller said. Associated and other companies, including its airline, shipbuilding, supermarket and oil activities outside the North Sea, contributed with 864 million crowns to the group`s total result before gains on sales and special items of 9.74 billion crowns.