Confident Asciano’s figures point to soft conditions generally

Coal volumes high, while much movement but little excitement is seen in container trades

Confident Asciano’s figures point to soft conditions generally
Coal transport is up but not much else


Asciano managing director John Mullen is bullish about his company’s performance at present.

Despite difficult conditions affecting business apart from coal exports, earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) first quarter of the financial year (FY15) have been promising.

"While coal haulage volumes continue to remain at high levels, volumes across out other businesses remain patchy," says

"In response to this environment we are very focused on our business improvement programs and in particular the integration of our two rail businesses.

"As a result of this focus, and despite the softer than expected volumes in some areas of the business, we have reported very good EBIT margin expansion in the first quarter of FY15."

The patchiness was most prevalent in the terminals and logistics business focused on Patrick, with falls at Port Botany and Fisherman Islands offset by rises at East Swanson Dock and Fremantle, leaving no comparable change from last year, at 525,000 container lifts for the quarter.

The flat line was related, the firm says, to a certain volatility in container shipping servicing the country, including:

  • inclusion of the K Line service into Fremantle and three new smaller services into East Swanson Dock, offset to an extent by the end of the PIL service
  • a strong previous first quarter at some terminals
  • volume shifts due to consortium changes and service market share changes
  • market share changes across shipping lines and key routes
  • fluctuations in subcontracting volumes between stevedores compared with last year’s first quarter.

But the doldrums elsewhere, particularly related to container logistics traffic (TEUs), down 1 per cent compared with last year’s first quarter, "reflecting a soft market and the net impact of contract gains and losses", will be a cause for concern in other parts of the transport and logistics industry, as will a 2.4 per cent decline in intermodal net tonne kilometres.

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