2018 May 14
European freight forwarding and logistics group DSV is optimistic on forward demand, pointing to positive customer sentiment and playing down reports of a slight slowdown in the global economy
Looking at the Danish group’s order books and talking to customers about their intentions and expectations for the year, CEO Jens Bjørn Andersen told analysts he didn’t detect any slackening in business activity.
“We don't see any slowdown,” Andersen said. “DSV’s senior management spends a lot of time speaking to customers and it seems they remain optimistic (about the economic outlook).
“You could argue that comparisons are becoming tougher (against last year), but when you look at the volumes, they’re still looking pretty decent. In our forecasts, we have not taken into account that we’ll see a slowdown in the economy; and with the knowledge we have, it continues to be unlikely.”
Nor has feedback from customers to date indicated concerns about the prospect of trade wars and possible repercussions in the form of lower volumes of freight or disruptions to supply chains, Andersen said.
“It goes without saying that we are great believers in free trade and that any restrictions to it are not beneficial to DSV,” he noted. “And if we do enter a period of big trade wars that is definitely not in our interests.
“Is that just around the corner? I don't know. It doesn’t seem to be the case.”
He said forwarders like DSV were not exposed directly to commodities such as steel and aluminium, which were the targets of the initial sanctions. “There could be some spill-over effects, but for the time being, it’s not like we’re seeing a big rush where customers are placing additional bookings to get ahead of a potential new tax on certain products.
“So we haven’t really seen it, and it’s not our understanding that we are heading into a big storm that will significantly impact the volumes we are handling.”
As for how he sees air and ocean freight markets playing out in the coming months, Andersen noted: “I think the ocean market will continue to be soft. There will be still be a lot of new capacity coming into the market. The (ocean) growth is OK, but it’s lower than what we see in air.
“We get all the capacity we need (in ocean). Of course, it’s a super-volatile market where the ocean carriers constantly try and get the rates up. So we have to be extremely aware of what’s going on and be close to both our customers and suppliers.”
He continued: “Air is a little bit different. We have to fight more in certain weeks of the year to get the capacity we need. It helps us tremendously that we are one of the larger players now in the market. It clearly benefits us and we do get a kind of preferential treatment in terms of space allocation from the airlines, which is what you'd expect when you are a large customer.”
He agreed that capacity constraints in air freight had put a premium on pre-planning, including that for the peak season.
“The new size we have in air freight (following the acquisition of UTi) means we have to look at the planning in a little more sophisticated way than what we did in the past. We have strengthened our central procurement of air freight, which now sits in New York. And I think it’s fair to say that we have now secured more capacity long term than maybe we would have done a couple of years ago before we bought UTi.”
Summing up, he said: “I think we’ll probably see for the rest of the year a continuation of what we saw in Q1, meaning that ocean yields could improve maybe slightly more than what we have seen in air, the latter being offset by higher (volume) growth, so that the absolute earnings can still grow pretty nicely for air freight.”
Asked about CMA CGM taking a capital stake in CEVA Logistics, Andersen replied: “We cannot comment on this specific transaction. We will focus on our own business and make sure that we have a value proposition that remains very strong, while focusing on our processes being very efficient.
“It’s very important to point out that there are great differences between being an ocean carrier and being a freight forwarder. These are two important functions that each party delivers, and they are two totally different products.
“I think we are well-positioned to continue to take a growing share of business in the markets where we are present. But these new developments by the ocean carriers are something we are tracking and we will draw our own conclusions once we fully understand what they are trying to develop.”