BlackRock has revealed the sale of some of its holdings in Matson as the US container liner operator’s shares rocketed to record heights.

A securities filing by the major investment firm shows it owned more than 6.45m shares of New York-listed Matson on 31 December, giving it a 15.3% stake.

A year earlier, BlackRock provided the US Securities and Exchange Commission that it had more than 7.21m shares. At the time, its 16.5% stake made the investment manager Matson’s largest shareholder.

At the latest price for the New York-listed container ship owner and operator, BlackRock’s remaining holding is worth nearly $577m.

The filings do not show when in 2021 BlackRock, which is considered the world’s largest asset manager, trimmed its Matson stake.

But at nearly any point last year, a sale of Matson’s stock would have fetched a price that was higher than any point in the company’s history.

Monday’s closing price of $90.89 was only 4.3% below the peak of $94.54, an all-time record for Matson’s shares as the company reaped the benefits of the container shipping boom.

On 19 January the company, whose business is focused primarily on US-flag trades in the Pacific in addition to an international service to China, could not wait until its planned quarterly results announcement to tell investors that it expects to have beaten analyst expectations in the fourth quarter.

The company said it expects to deliver a profit of $365m to $382m during the period.

The result amounted to $8.70 to $9.10 in earnings per share (EPS). That not only dwarfs Wall Street’s consensus estimate of $5.37 per share, but it also matches the company’s combined EPS for the prior three years, according to data from Stifel.

Analyst Benjamin Nolan, who covers shipping stocks for the US investment bank, tied the outperformance to higher-than-expected freight rates and volumes.

“While these levels can’t last forever, there has been no let-up yet,” he said.

“Management expects the good times to last until at least October 2022, and demand for the China service to remain elevated for most of the year. In addition, current cash flows have already fundamentally transformed the balance sheet which should unlock increased return of capital to shareholders.”

Matson’s core ocean transportation business expects to report between $445m and $455m in operating income for the fourth quarter, beating Stifel’s expectations calling for nearly $321m.

Nolan sees more record stock prices ahead for the company, as he hiked his target price to $98 per share.

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