Panalpina’s airfreight volumes increased 4% in the first nine months of 2018, in line with estimated market growth of 4%. Compared to the same period of last year, gross profit per ton increased 12% to CHF705, resulting in a gross profit of CHF530m compared with CHF456m.

EBIT in airfreight increased from CHF69.4m to CHF80.2m. The EBIT-to-gross-profit margin for the first nine months of 2018 came in at 15.1% compared to 15.2% a year before.

Panalpina chief executive Stefan Karlen said: “In a year that so far has been characterised by strained international trade relations, we have increased profitability of the group compared to the first nine months of 2017.

“The macroeconomic uncertainties of the third quarter resulted in air and ocean freight markets that were not as strong as predicted. We saw a market where ocean freight peak season was weaker than anticipated. The airfreight rates went up, which impacted our margins as expected. In all, we have stood our ground in a very volatile environment.”

From January to September, the international freight forwarding and logistics company saw gross profit increase from CHF1,024.8m to CHF1,116.2m. Year-on-year, Panalpina’s EBIT increased from CHF72.1m to CHF83.2m and the consolidated profit increased from CHF48.4m to CHF51m.

Looking to the future, Karlen said: “Due to macroeconomic and political uncertainties, it is challenging to accurately predict the dynamics of the airfreight peak season and the impact on rates and volumes this year, but we have prepared meticulously, securing capacity for our customers and ensuring readiness on the ground at strategic airports.

“In ocean freight, we expect fairly strong flows into the USA, but otherwise moderate market growth globally and our focus remains on unit profitability improvement. The volatile freight forwarding environment is a constant reminder that we need to do everything in our control to continue to build an organisation that is fit for sustainable, profitable growth.”