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The Group registered revenue growth of 9.8% to USD422.3 million for the twelve months ended 31 December 2018 ("FY18"), from USD384.6 million a year ago ("FY17"), mainly due to higher contribution from the container shipping business segment.
Container volume handled rose 13.7% year-on-year to 1,470,000 TEUs in FY18, compared to 1,293,000 TEUs in FY17. This lifted container shipping revenue by 11.2% to USD390.9 million, compared to USD351.6million a year ago.
Revenue from the bulk & tanker business decreased 17.8% to USD22.1 million in FY18, from USD27.0 million in FY17, taking into account a smaller tanker fleet operated year-on-year.
In line with the increase in container shipping activity, cost of services rose 10.6% to USD400.7 million in FY18, from USD362.3 million in FY17. This was reflected in the increase in charter-hire costs due to higher charter-hire rates and a larger fleet, as well as freight charges incurred in conjunction with cooperation and slot exchange arrangements undertaken with its partners. The higher bunker prices also contributed to the increase in cost of services.
Consequently, the Group closed the year with a gross profit of USD21.6 million in FY18, compared to USD22.3 million in the previous financial year.
Foreign exchange gain improved to USD0.4 million, compared to USD0.2 million in FY17 on the back of the strengthening of the USD against the SGD.
Other operating expenses rose to USD0.5 million, from USD0.1 million, mainly due to impairment of investments in joint venture companies made in view of these companies' negative performance.
Notwithstanding a decrease in profit before tax to USD8.2 million, compared to USD10.7 million in FY17, taxation for FY18 increased to USD0.5 million, compared to USD0.3 million in FY17. This was due to a write-back of tax provision in 2017, resulting in lower tax expense in FY17.
The Group's net profit for FY18 amounted to USD8.3 million in FY18, compared to USD10.5 million in FY17.
Cash and bank balances decreased to USD28.8 million as at 31 Dec 2018, compared to USD49.6 million as at 31 Dec 2017. This was mainly due to scheduled loan repayment, decrease in profitability of the group despite higher business activity and longer credit term provided to customers resulting in an increase in working capital requirement.
Trade receivables was USD70.9 million as at 31 Dec 2018, compared to USD58.7 million as at 31 Dec 2017, mainly in relation to higher business activity. In addition, credit terms were extended for certain customers in view of the substantial volume of business awarded to Samudera.
Trade payables increased to USD25.7 million, from USD23.9 million a year ago, in line with higher business activity.
The outlook for the regional container shipping industry in the year ahead is uncertain. Any escalation of trade friction between the United States and its trading partners could further complicate the operating environment.
Meanwhile, concerns over a slowdown in the Chinese economy have weighed on the outlook of the dry bulk sector. Charter rates for bulk carriers have softened since the start of 2019, which may pose a challenge to the operating conditions for the Group's bulk business.
The tanker business remains relatively stable, as the Group's tankers remain in employment.
In November 2018, one of the Group's dry-bulk vessels, Sinar Kapuas, was arrested in Honduras, due to a cargo claim by the Honduran cargo owner. The effort to release the ship from arrest, involving the Group, its lawyers and insurance company as well as the Honduran authority, is underway. The process to get the vessel released took longer than initially estimated. The Group is working towards having the vessel released from arrest in March 2019. The negative impact on the Group's 2019 performance, as a result of this incident, including loss of income, is estimated to be USD 1.7 million on the basis that the vessel is released on 15th March 2019. The Group will make further announcements of any material developments or when the ship is released and returned to operation.
In the year ahead, the Group will continue to prioritise the optimisation of its cost and operational efficiency to navigate the challenges ahead. It will also continue to manage its fleet prudently and efficiently.