Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg News

A.P. Moller-Maersk A/S, the owner of the world’s biggest container shipping line, is paying particular attention to noises coming from the U.S. that suggest the new administration is moving closer to a trade war with China.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s rejection of trade agreements with the rest of North America and Europe have done little to unsettle Maersk’s management. “But when the talks come to a potential trade war with China, we sit up and listen,” Soren Skou, the CEO of the Copenhagen-based company, said in an interview on Feb. 8. “That would have a very negative effect on our business.”

RELATED: Maersk slumps as it unveils second loss since World War II

Maersk, which is trying to split off its energy operations in order to focus entirely on a transport division led by its container shipping line, saw its shares sink on Feb. 8 after reporting a full-year loss when analysts had predicted a profit. Though much of the result was due to one-time impairments, the projection for 2017 also disappointed some investors.

The company expects the global shipping market to grow about 2-4% this year, helping it increase its profit from freighting goods by at least $1 billion. But a full-fledged trade war between the U.S. and China could ultimately make a mockery of such forecasts. Trump’s rhetoric so far suggests he’s ready for battle, with accusations of currency manipulation being hurled at China.

Goldman Sachs analysts estimate that if Trump were to impose tariffs against China of up to 10%, the country’s exports to the U.S. would fall by as much as 25%. That could erode China’s economic growth by as much as 1 percentage point.

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By Christian Wienberg
Bloomberg News

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