China's COSCO Shipping reports $1.4 bln loss for 2016

SHANGHAI, March 30 (Reuters) - China's COSCO Shipping

Holdings Co Ltd made a loss last year of

9.9 billion yuan ($1.44 billion), the company reported on

Thursday, due to both persistently weak freight rates and

restructuring costs.

Freight shipping firms have been hit hard by a prolonged

downturn in rates caused by overcapacity and a slowdown in

global trade.

COSCO, the world's fourth-largest container shipping line,

became a new company last year, born out of the merger of two

major domestic shipping firms, making year-on-year comparisons

difficult.

Since then it has been restructuring, selling some units at

a loss and focusing on container shipping.

Revenue came in at 71.2 billion yuan.

COSCO said, however, it was seeing some positive signals in

demand and expects the overall market this year to be better

than that of 2016.

Its comments echo those of rivals including Denmark's Maersk

Line and Germany's Hapag Lloyd, which

have said the sector has entered a period of recovery with

freight rates expected to rise this year.

Seeking to save costs on key shipping routes, COSCO has also

formed a vessel-sharing alliance with France's CMA CGM

, Taiwan's Evergreen Line and Hong

Kong-based Orient Overseas Container Line that starts

April 1.

Shares in COSCO closed 0.28 percent higher in Hong Kong on

Thursday before the results, while the Hang Seng index

was down 0.37 percent.

($1 = 6.8880 Chinese yuan renminbi)

(Reporting by Brenda Goh; Editing by Edwina Gibbs and Greg

Mahlich)