May 14 - Wilh. Wilhelmsen Holding ASA (WWH) has delivered top line and profit growth lifted by historically high total income and operating profit in the shipping segment.

The company said that operating profit amounted to USD106 million for the first quarter of 2012, up 84 percent year over year from USD58 million in the corresponding quarter of 2011. Total income increased 26 percent and ended at USD946 million (USD753 million).

"With all time high revenue in the shipping segment, the group's earnings improved considerably year over year. Despite a seasonally weaker quarter, we also recorded a positive development quarter on quarter," says Thomas Wilhelmsen, group CEO of WWH.

"Our shipping activities benefitted from favourable trade balance and a sound balance between auto and high and heavy volumes. Introduction of new and larger vessels contributed to more efficient operations with a positive effect on earnings," says Wilhelmsen.

The group's maritime services segment continued to show a positive development.

"Sales to the merchant fleet have improved and we have increased the number of vessels on management. This contributes to increased total income both quarter on quarter and year over year. The activity level related to newbuildings and retrofits have been slower, with reduced income albeit an increase in order reserve," says Wilhelmsen.

"Following the withdrawal of the ballast water treatment system earlier this year, the operating profit for the segment was negatively impacted by a loss of USD15 million. Adjusted for the loss, the maritime services segment recorded a 60 percent year over year increase in operating profit. The profit improvement plan accomplished last year has lifted the segment back to a 9 percent operating margin."

Net financials for the quarter amounted to an expense of USD9 million (expense of USD23 million), positively affected by a USD10 million gain from investment management (gain of USD4 million) and a gain of USD2 million from sale of 12 million shares in Qube. WWH owned approximately 8.40f Qube by the end of the quarter.

Net profit after tax and minority interest was USD69 million (USD 22 million) for the first three months of 2012, an increase of USD10 million from the fourth quarter of 2011.