The MV Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller, the world's biggest container ship, arrives at the harbour of Rotterdam.

Copenhagen - Danish shipping and oil group AP Moller-Maersk said on Tuesday its second quarter net profit almost tripled to 2.25 billion dollars (R24 billion), boosted by the sale of a majority stake in a supermarket chain.

Net profit in the corresponding business period of 2013 was 785 million dollars.

Moller-Maersk said it gained 2.8 billion dollars from the sale of the majority share of Dansk Supermarked Group.

This partly offset impairments of 1.7 billion dollars for Brazilian oil assets and higher project costs, which were announced in July.

The group that operates Maersk Line, the world's biggest container shipper, said higher volumes and cost reductions helped to offset lower average freight rates.

The group said it expected global demand for container shipping to grow by 4 to 5 per cent this year, but freight rates would remain under pressure due to strong competition.

To counter this trend, Maersk Line and Swiss-based MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company recently unveiled a vessel-sharing agreement on key routes between Europe, Asia and North America.

It is due to begin in early 2015, pending approval from relevant authorities.

Maersk Line's container fleet numbered 576 vessels at the end of June, of which 305 were chartered.

AP Moller-Maersk Group includes offshore oil and gas activities, as well as shipyard operations.

Turnover rose 2.3 per cent year-on-year to 11.9 billion dollars.

Citing the group's “strong financial position” chief executive Nils S Andersen said the board had decided to buy back shares worth 1 billion dollars in the coming 12-month period. - Sapa-dpa