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UK-MAERSK-RESULTS:Maersk beats profit forecast on shipping business
Reuters The MV Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller, the world's biggest container ship, arrives at the harbour of Rotterdam August 16, 2013. REUTERS/Michael Kooren

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Danish shipping and oil group A.P. Moller-Maersk said 2013 net profit fell less than expected thanks to higher earnings at container shipping business Maersk Line.

Fourth-quarter net profit fell to $936 million, Maersk said on Thursday, beating the average forecast of $808 million in a Reuters poll of analysts.

Underlying group net profit this year is expected to be in line with 2013's figure of $3.78 billion, Maersk said.

Maersk Line, the world's largest container shipping line that accounts for about half of group revenue, said its transported volumes rose last year but average container freight rate fell.

"We expect container freight rates to go up and down and over-capacity will continue to 2016," Chief Executive Nils Smedegaard Andersen said on a teleconference.

The business is seen as a bellwether for the global economy as its vessels make up around 15 percent of the world's container shipping capacity that carries 90 percent of world trade.

Shares in A.P. Moller-Maersk were 2.2 percent lower 0855 GMT, while the Danish benchmark index <.OMXC20CAP> was down 0.6 percent.

"Given the share has risen considerably recently and the slightly disappointing guidance, we expect that the share will show a negative trend in today's trading," Handelsbanken Markets wrote in note to clients.

The company proposed issuing four bonus shares for each existing share held, in a move to expand its shareholder base.

It proposed a dividend payout of 1,400 Danish crowns ($260)per share, up from 1,200 crowns last year.

($1 = 5.4600 Danish crowns)

(Reporting by Ole Mikkelsen; Editing by Erica Billingham)