„Prepare For Tomorrow“ –
Sharpening our Strategy 2023
Heiko Hoffmann, Head of Investor Relations, speaks with the Chief Executive Officer of Hapag-Lloyd AG about business developments in 2021.
Heiko Hoffmann: Mr. Habben Jansen, how do you view the recently concluded 2021 financial year?
Rolf Habben Jansen: The course of the year was particularly shaped by the strong demand for goods exported from the Asian region. Therefore, we saw much higher spot rates in the market and achieved a strong result compared to the previous year. In this respect, it was a very successful year for us and especially for our shareholders. However, we have simultaneously seen a significant increase in transport expenses as a result of severe bottlenecks in the global supply chains. These bottlenecks are posing a huge challenge to all market players and, regrettably, they have also made life difficult for many of our customers.
What measures were you able to take to counteract these bottlenecks?
We put measures in place at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, and we have stuck to them. For example, we have shifted capacity to high-demand trade lanes, further optimised our network of services, and diverted ships to avoid congested ports. We have purchased used tonnage, chartered in additional vessels, and deployed extra loaders. In addition, we have invested in new vessels, with the result that there are now 22 units with a combined capacity of around 400,000 TEU in our orderbook. We also purchased or leased around 300,000 TEU of new container capacity in the past financial year and stepped up our efforts to repair and maintain older containers. On top of that, we have bolstered our human and IT resources, pushed ahead with our digitalisation efforts, and developed new products for our customers, such as Quick Quotes Spot, which gives them more planning security. We were able to significantly increase the number of bookings made via our web channel compared to the previous year, with the result being that one out of every four containers was booked online. But the biggest contribution has definitely come from our 14,100 employees worldwide. None of this would have been possible without them, and they have given their all to keep the supply chains of our customers intact.
Rolf Habben Jansen, CEO
To what extent has the unusual market environment impacted your strategy?
We have used the market environment as an opportunity to refine our Strategy 2023. The fact is that, even though we have made good progress since launching our Strategy in 2018 and achieved our financial targets even earlier than expected, we would like to be well prepared for when the markets get back to normal again. What’s more, we need to continue to get better when it comes to quality, as a lot of our customers haven’t received the level of service that they are accustomed to and rightly expect from us owing to last year’s bottlenecks in the supply chains. On top of that, sustainability issues are becoming more and more important, and the shipping industry needs to play its part in efforts to achieve the targets of the Paris agreement on climate change as quickly as possible. This will also be a key building block of our expanded sustainability strategy, which we presented last November. As a result, we have geared our Strategy 2023 even more strongly towards quality and sustainability.
Which specific measures will this entail?
Over the next two years, we will be reducing our internal complexities under the motto “Prepare for Tomorrow” and thereby enhancing the customer experience, such as by streamlining our network, optimising our fleet and consolidating our transhipments in selected hubs. Second, we will continue to rigorously pursue our ambition to be the “number one for quality” by becoming even more digital and continuing to grow in attractive niche markets and regions, as we would like to maintain our global market share – excluding intra-Asia – of 10%. Third, we will be investing even more in our team, sustainable assets and our long-term competitiveness while also more actively exploring inorganic growth options. What’s more, we have made “sustainability” the fourth core focus of our Strategy 2023 and set concrete goals for ourselves. Specifically, we aim to reduce the CO₂e intensity of our entire fleet by 30% by 2030 and to become carbon-neutral by 2045.
Heiko Hoffmann, Head of Investor Relations
How is this business development reflected in the results? And will there be a dividend again this year?
In 2021, we achieved an extraordinarily strong Group net result of more than €9 billion, which was almost 10 times as much as in the prior year. At the same time, we made substantial investments in our vessel and container fleets in addition to significantly expanding our market position in Africa with the successful acquisition of the shipping company NileDutch. We significantly increased the return on invested capital and thereby more than earned our capital costs once again. With a free cash flow of more than €9 billion and equity of €16 billion, we enjoy a very solid financial and asset position. What’s more, our improved earning power and the continuous optimisation of our balance sheet structure were also positively recognised by Standard & Poor's and Moody’s with rating upgrades. We are therefore looking forward to a very positive business performance, from which our shareholders should also benefit. For this reason, our Executive Board and our Supervisory Board will jointly propose to the Annual General Meeting that a dividend of €35 per share be paid out.
What developments do you expect to see in the current financial year?
We expect demand and spot rates to remain at a high level in the first half of the year. Unfortunately, the bottlenecks in the global supply chains won’t ease overnight, but we remain optimistic and expect the market situation to gradually improve over the rest of the year. What’s more, the anticipated growth in the global economy and trade volume is likely to be reflected in rising demand for container transports. At the same time, since global capacity growth in terms of container ships is expected to remain at roughly the same level as the previous year. In the medium term, we expect a balanced relationship between supply and demand overall.

However, seeing that there might be more variants of the virus and that the pandemic situation might go on for more time as well as the current developments in Ukraine, our forecasts remain subject to uncertainties. We will continue to do everything in our power to react flexibly while keeping the interests of our shareholders, customers and employees firmly in mind. At the same time, I would like to thank everyone very sincerely for their confidence in and close collaboration with us in this extraordinary business year.

Mr. Habben Jansen, thank you very much for the interview.