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Shipbroker Clarkson buoyed by stronger market but warns of cyber criminal dangers

Shipbroker Clarkson’s boss has flagged up the danger posed by hackers to businesses after the company was held to “ransom” by cyber criminals.
Speaking as the FTSE 250 group posted annual results, chief executive Andi Case said industry is under constant attack from criminal enterprises trying to break into their systems.
“Every single company is under attack,” said Mr Case, who had to issue a statement to the market in the autumn admitting his company's system had been cracked by hackers.
Clarkson shares slipped almost 6pc on news of the breach in November, as the company warned that hackers indicated they would release confidential information unless they were paid off.
Shipbroker Clarkson buoyed by stronger market but warns of cyber criminal dangers

Clarkson monitors 115 ships every 15 minutes and has billions of datapoints on the shipping industry
At the time the shipbroker said it had lawyers on standby to act if this happened, with Mr Case warning the company “would not be held to ransom by criminals”.
Speaking as Clarkson reported revenues 5.8pc higher at ?324m with pre-tax profit down 4pc at ?45.4m, though profit was 12pc stronger at ?50.2m after acquisition and exceptional costs were stripped out, Mr Case gave more details on the attack.
“We had a demand for money but nothing was paid, I’m pleased to say. We’ve learned from it and were surprised how many companies got in touch to share similar experiences,” Mr Case said.
He called for action from Government to help tackle the cyber crime threat, saying neither politicians or the public were aware of the scale of the problem.  
“In day-to-day life you would not normally expect people to attack you but that is daily corporate life,” the chief executive said. “These hackers are organised as businesses and their business is crime. Companies need help to deal with them.”
Shipbroker Clarkson buoyed by stronger market but warns of cyber criminal dangers

Clarkson chief Andi Case says the scale of hacking attacks is not appreciated by the public
Reviewing the year, Clarkson is seeing a growing recovery in the shipping market, which carries 85pc of all global freight. Mr Case pointed to the Baltic Dry Index - a benchmark for cargo costs - which has risen 43pc in the past year, and a steady rise in freight trade from 0.8 tonnes per capita globally in 1990 to almost 1.6 tonnes now.
“The fundamentals of the industry are good,” he added, saying there was a huge oversupply of  vessels after the financial crash because owners rushed to place orders to take advantage of high freight rates. The aftermath of financial crisis left too many ships chasing too little trade, driving down freight prices. This situation is now starting to work itself out of the system.
However, the chief executive said it was unlikely freight rates will return to pre-crash highs, with the current fleet of 2bn tonnes of ships far higher than the 1.2bn tonne fleet seen back in 2008.
He added: “I’ve been chief executive for nine years and this is the first time I’d say we are in positive waters”.
Shipbroker Clarkson buoyed by stronger market but warns of cyber criminal dangers

Clarkson raised its dividend for a 15th year running, pushing it up from 65p to 73p, something which the chief executive said “talks to the level of confidence we have in the business”. He added that Clarkson has paid off its debt and remains highly cash generative.
Executive pay at Clarkson has been a flashpoint with investors, and at the last annual meeting the company suffered a 26pc shareholder revolt over Mr Case’s ?3.7m.
Clarkson
In the results, Clarkson said it understood that investor concerns about pay “clearly needed to be addressed” and had engaged with 52pc of shareholders since the revolt.
It has also changed pay rules to require directors to own 200pc of their salary in shares with a two-year post-vesting holding period for long-term bonus schemes.
However, Mr Case said he was “happy to be judged on his record” when it came to pay, noting that Clarkson competes with private companies which do not have the same constraints on pay it faces as a listed company.
Panmure analysts called the performance “robust in market conditions which, while improving, remained challenging”. Liberum added that Clarkson’s numbers showed “early signs of shipping markets improving”.
The shares were up 1.2pc at ?33.30 in late trading.
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