Marine terminal operator DP World said Wednesday its 2009 profits fell by 46 percent amid fallout from the financial meltdown, but also indicated there were signs of a recovery even as global trade patterns remain unpredictable.
The company's adjusted net profit from continuing operations was $333 million through Dec. 31, compared to $621 million in the previous 12-month period, Mohammed Sharaf, the company's chief executive, said.
"We are seeing positive signs of recovery," Sharaf told reporters Wednesday. "It is still too early in 2010 to confirm sustainability as the macroeconomic environment and global trade patterns remain unpredictable," he added.
The company, a unit of debt-saddled Dubai World conglomerate, said the results were better than expected given the impact of the financial crisis on global trade last year.
The results come as Dubai World, the chief engine for growth in Dubai — the glitziest of the seven semiautonomous city-states making up the United Arab Emirates — is preparing its restructuring plan to creditors.
Dubai World rattled world markets late last year by announcing that it was seeking a "standstill" — effectively a delay — in repayment of $26 billion of its $60 billion in debts.
The debts were amassed during a decade of growth in which the company, like Dubai itself, relied on cheap credit and easy financing to undertake multibillion dollar projects that helped transform the emirate into the Middle East's version of Las Vegas and Wall Street.
DP World, which operates 49 terminals on six continents, including the Middle East's biggest in Dubai, is not included in the restructuring.
Even so, the parent company's woes have taken their toll, DP World officials said, indicating that ratings agencies had also taken action that affected the port operator.
"As a Dubai company, we are not only impacted by what happens in Dubai World, but by what happens with the world economy since we are a global company," Sharaf said.
The company said its 2009 results were better than expected, particularly given the impact of the global meltdown.
Revenue fell to $2.8 billion compared to almost $3.3 billion the previous year, a drop which the company attributed to an eight percent decline in container volume and a 29 percent decline in non-container revenue in 2009.
Company officials said DP World wants to move ahead with its plans to list its shares on the London Stock Exchange "as soon as possible," adding that the listing of shares would be done through depository interests in pounds sterling.
Sharaf said the company this year will focus on emerging markets and evaluate opportunities in countries in which it has no presence, including the United States.
"The U.S. always remains on the table," Sharaf said. "This is the market that will come back and we'll consider opportunities at the right time and at the right price."
The port firm has kept a low profile in the U.S. since its 2006 plan to assume control of American cargo terminals sparked a political firestorm. On Wednesday, Sharaf told reporters that the company is observing the political climate in the U.S. since it was the reason for the withdrawal from the market four years ago.
"We are getting the right signals, but we will decide when it is the right time," Sharaf said. He declined to talk about the company's specific plans in the U.S.
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