Container shipping group CMA CGM [CMACG.UL] said on Friday that it expected activity to remain strong in the first half of this year after brisk demand for consumer goods boosted its profits at the end of last year.

France-based CMA CGM said its fourth-quarter earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) reached $2.23 billion, compared with $1.01 billion in the year-earlier period.

Quarterly group net profit came to $1.0 billion. That took annual net earnings to $1.755 billion, against a net loss of $229 million in 2019 when the acquisition of CEVA Logistics had weighed on earnings.

CMA CGM, privately controlled by the Saade family, is one of the world’s largest container lines and competes with firms including market leader Maersk .

Container shipping recovered sharply from an initial slowdown caused by the start of the coronavirus pandemic a year ago, with online shopping by locked-down households contributing to a flurry of freight orders.

Strong consumer demand coupled with logistical constraints due to the pandemic has led to a shortage of containers, congestion at ports and rising shipping rates.

CMA CGM said strong shipping activity should continue for at least the first half of 2021, adding it would continue to expand ship capacity and vessel calls in order to meet high demand.

The group also announced that the Saade family holding, MERIT France, had increased its stake to 73% after buying 3% from French state bank Bpifrance, which retains a 3% participation.

Source: Reuters