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Matson profit jumps to $9.1M in 1st quarter

HONOLULU (AP) -- Cargo company Matson Inc. said Monday its first-quarter profit more than doubled to $9.1 million, driven by increased trade in Hawaii, higher rates in China and running one fewer ship in its fleet.

The Honolulu company said its earnings of 21 cents per share during the three months ending March 31 compared with earnings of $3.8 million, or 9 cents per share, during the same quarter one year ago.

Matt Cox, the company's chief executive, said the solid quarter boosted the company's outlook for the rest of the year.

"We continue to expect mixed results in our ocean transportation trade lanes as compared to 2012, as evidenced by a decrease in Guam volume during the first quarter, better than expected Hawaii volume trends and anticipated weaker China freight rates for the balance of the year," Cox said. "All said, we are off to a good start."

Matson said its revenue was $394.7 million during the quarter. That compared with revenue of $366.1 million during the first quarter last year.

Volume increased in Hawaii because of an uptick in cargo going east, plus modest market growth and gains, the company said. The company said eastbound volume is historically volatile.

Matson said its ocean transportation revenue jumped 7.3 percent to $299.9 million. In addition to the gains in Hawaii, the company reported new volume in Micronesia and the South Pacific, plus a boost in China trade freight rates.

Shares of Matson rose 7 cents, less than 1 percent, to $24.49 on Monday.

Matson has a fleet of 18 vessels, with container ships, custom barges and other vessels. It serves, in part, economies of Hawaii, Guam, Micronesia and some South Pacific islands. It also has service from China to southern California.