Romantic ties have emerged between several of the major brokerage houses in recent months. First ACM and Braemar joined forces, and then Clarksons and Platou merged this week. Meanwhile, the two brokers Icap and Howe Robinson are also flirting with the idea of tying the knot.
All these companies are competitors to Maersk Broker, which now also reveals an interest in potential ties to other brokers.
"We're looking at various possibilities right now, and we've looked at potential merger possibilities in the past. The challenge of a merger is that you don't get any material assets. You get lots of people, and a consolidation requires good chemistry between these people. That's our approach, that we need very good chemistry. And, of course, our customers need to benefit significantly from a merger, which means that if we are going to merge, it will have to be with a party that can provide customers with better service and coverage than they get today," Maersk Broker CEO Anders Hald tells ShippingWatch.
New role for brokers
He explains that the role played by shipbrokers has changed, and that this new role is important to keep in mind in a potential merger.
"Customers demand better service with strengths in matters such as research. This means that the role of shipbroker changes from serving as traditional broker between two parties to a role that increasingly resembles a consultant or advisor. This new role represents a very natural part of customer demands," says Anders Hald.
The recent mergers between shipbrokers represent a clear trend, according to Maersk Broker, and this brings increased competition because the bar is constantly raised in terms of what shipbrokers can provide.
"The recent mergers are so new that we have yet to see the results of what they'll be able to do. This will naturally bring increased competition, and seeing as we're part of the market we'll likely be seeing some changes pretty soon. This also means that we need to be even more focused on expanding our customer base," says Anders Hald.
Clarksons' acquisition of Platou is based on a desire to secure a better foothold in Scandinavia, where Maersk Broker has a strong presence. But this will not have a big impact, he says, as Maersk Broker has a much bigger focus on the rest of the world.
Expects satisfactory 2014
Maersk Broker's 2013 revenue came to USD 58.2 million, compared to USD 76.7 million in 2012 - a decline that was also reflected in the profit, which finished at USD 2.98 million in 2013, down from USD 17.2 million in 2012. This development is attributed to the fact that the financial crisis hit the company hard in this period, according to Maersk Broker.
"We're talking about a decline in revenue of USD 13.4 - 14.2 million, and this is something we can feel. This is the aftermath of some of the businesses we did in the period 2006-2008, when the market was very, very high and heavy, where we entered quite a few long-term charter parties and numerous newbuilding contracts at very high prices. Some of these have either been renegotiated or canceled frequently at either lower prices or lower rates, on which we base our commission," Anders Hald told ShippingWatch in relation to the company's interim report.
He also estimated that this decline would be a one-time event, and he confirms this notion now, near the end of 2014.
"We've actually had a positive 2014 with satisfactory results. We've seen solid activity in many of our business areas. We've increased our focus on the offshore sector and we're also seeing very good developments in our newbuilding business. We've been able to compensate for some of the difficult dry bulk market, so we're very pleased," says Anders Hald.
He expects that the activity levell in 2015 will fall more or less in line with 2014.
Maersk Broker is currently owned by deceased shipowner Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller's three daughters, Leise Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller, Kirsten Olufsen og Ane Mærsk Mc-Kinney Uggla. Maersk Broker is not part of A.P. Moeller-Maersk.