Looking at the public financial statements of tank container players, and having knowledge of several private ones, it’s clear that 2018 was an excellent year for most in the industry, with one or two painful exceptions.
The winners were the large global lessors - whose returns approached 10% - and the global tank container operators, some of whom achieved record sales revenue and/or profitability. The losers were smaller scale, more regionally-focused lessors without the capital depth, economies of scale and IT systems of their larger competitors. Tank container manufacturers also had a tough year, despite record production levels.
Underlying demand for tank containers was fuelled by global economic growth of 3.7%. Unusually, chemical production - which typically increases at 1-2% above GDP - increased at only 3.1% in 2018 although this masked significant regional differences. European chemical output, for instance, is likely to grow a meagre 0.5% in 2019. German chemical production - Europe’s largest - is forecast to rise 1.5%.
Of more significance to the tank container sector is specialty chemical production, which grew at a healthy 3.7% in 2018.
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May 3, 2019