Norwegian shipping group Leif Hoegh forecast higher operating profit in 2001, helped by a larger RoRo vehicle transport fleet, after a smaller-than-expected 59 percent jump in the first quarter. "After a slow start to the year for the Ro/Ro and reefer segments, the markets picked up in March, a trend which has continued into the second quarter," the company said. "The operating profit, excluding sales gain or loss, is expected to increase from last year through (the) larger RoRo fleet, the Hoegh Galleon charterparty and the transfer of the liner service," it said.
It added that bunker prices, foreign exchange movements and interest rates would all affect the company's results. The liquefied natural gas carrier Hoegh
Galleon was rebuilt last year at a cost of $25 million and was delivered to Enron
on March 21 under a 17-year charterparty. Germany's Egon Oldendorff oHG took over Hoegh's liner service from March 5. Operating profit in the first three months of 2001 rose to $27 million from $17 million in the same period of 2000. Leif Hoegh said
that net profit rose to $11 million from six million. It said that the rise in operating profit was "somewhat lower than expected due to weakening markets both for the Ro/Ro and reefer segments."
Leif Hoegh's HUAL RoRo and vehicle carrier division, in which Hoegh raised its stake to 100 percent last year from 50 percent, had a first quarter operating profit of $8.0 million, which the company said was lower than expected. "The slowdown in the world economy led to stagnating new car sales and lower capacity utilization of the vessels during the first couple of months. But a weaker Japanese yen buoyed volumes of cars from Japan from March. "Continued high activity in the Middle East, largely due to stable, high oil prices, led to good cargo volumes, both from Europe and the United States," it said. - (Reuters)