RoA may have reached cycle peak in 21Q4

Average Return on Assets (RoA) for the 9 main carriers that have posted their 2021 financial results dropped from 58% in 21Q3 to 54% in 21Q4, the first quarterly drop since 20Q1 as sequential growth in net profit could not keep pace with the balance sheet expansion. The same trend likely continue until 22Q2 when the container liners slim down their balance sheet through dividend distribution.

RoA, a compound of net profit margin and asset turnover, measures both operation and capital efficiency. ZIM led the liners with highest RoA due to its higher vessel charter-in ratio and better capital efficiency while COSCO’s bloated capital structure placed it at the bottom of the pack.