FRANKFURT, March 24 (Reuters) - German container shipping firm Hapag-Lloyd forecast on Friday an improvement in operating earnings this year due to an increase in freight rates.
"We expect some market improvement in 2017, but our success will largely depend on our ability to achieve more sustainable freight rates," Chief Executive Rolf Habben Jansen said in a statement.
The group anticipates a moderate increase in freight rates and transport volumes in 2017 and it said preparations for completion of the merger with Arab peer UASC, which is expected to bring huge synergies, are in the final stages.
Last year, earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) came to 607.4 million euros ($656.36 million), down 27 percent, Hapag-Lloyd said, confirming preliminary earnings published on Feb. 28.
It slumped to a net loss of 93.1 million euros from a year-earlier profit of 113.9 million.
"We had a very challenging market environment in the first six months of 2016, but were able to improve revenue and results significantly in the second half of the year," Habben Jansen said, saying the 2016 result was not satisfactory.
$1 = 0.9254 euros Reporting by Vera Eckert; Editing by Maria Sheahan