Fleet Management

Earnings Watch: Lower Fourth Quarter Profits for Knight, Celadon

January 27, 2016

By Evan Lockridge

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UPDATED -- Net income for two trucking and logistics companies experienced pullbacks in the fourth quarter of the year, according to earnings reports released Wednesday.

Knight Transportation Inc. (NYSE: KNX) saw its income fall 11.2% to $29.2 million in the final quarter of last year, compared to the same time in 2014, as earnings per diluted share moved lower to 36 cents from 40 cents, but is still 4 cents better than expecations from Zacks Investment Research.

Total revenue declined by 8.4% in the same time frame to $290.7 million while revenue minus fuel charges fell 2.8% as operating income declined 17.3% to $43.7 million.

“During the fourth quarter we experienced a less robust freight environment when compared to the same quarter last year. The contracted portion of our freight volume remained relatively stable, however, non-contract opportunities were challenged by falling load counts and additional competition,” said Dave Jackson, president and CEO.

“This led to a decline in consolidated revenue, excluding trucking fuel surcharge, of 2.8%," he continued. "Our profitability, cash flow generation, and return on capital remained strong, but exceptional performance during the fourth quarter of 2014, in which our revenue, excluding trucking fuel surcharge, grew 32.6% and our net income grew 63.9%, resulted in a difficult comparison for 2015.”

Trucking revenue minus fuel surcharges fell 2.1% in the fourth quarter of 2015 from a year earlier to $204.3 million while logistics revenue fell 5% to $61.7 million.

Revenue per tractor, excluding fuel surcharge, decreased 3.7%, year-over-year, due to a 1.5% decline in average revenue per loaded mile, an 0.8% decrease in average miles per tractor, while the average length of haul increased 4%, according to Knight.

During the fourth quarter of 2015, Knight said brokerage revenue, which is the largest component of its logistics segment, decreased 5.5% when compared to the same quarter last year.

Load volume grew by 49.7%, but was offset by a decline in revenue per load as a result of lower fuel surcharge, a shorter length of haul and less non-contract opportunities.

Knight also said it increased driver pay in specific geographies during the quarter, which resulted in higher driver pay inflation.

“Although the freight environment remains less robust we are experiencing improved average miles per tractor in the first half of January this year, when compared to the same period last year,” the company said in a news release. “Contract pricing is relatively firm despite the more competitive freight environment and lack of non-contract opportunities.”

In comparing the Arizona-based companies 2015 performance to 2014, it recorded a 13.5% improvement in net income totaling $116.7 million while diluted earnings per share increased to $1.42 from $1.25.

Total revenue increased 7.3% last year to $1.18 billion while revenue minus fuel charges improved 14.7% as operating income increased 9.4% to $178 million.

Trucking revenue minus fuel surcharges last year increased 16.1% from 2014 to $830.7 million as logistics revenue registered a 9.9% jump to $231 million.

There is more information on the Knight Transportation website.

Celadon Quarterly Profit Posts Double-Digit Drop

Meantime, Celadon Group Inc. (NYSE: CGI) reported that net income decreased 22.4% to $6.6 million in the second quarter of 2015 compared to a year earlier as earnings per diluted share fell to 24 cents from 36 cents, 10 cents less than expectations from Zacks Investment Research.

This came despite revenue for the quarter increasing 23.8% to $275.4 while freight revenue, which excludes fuel surcharges, increased 33.2% to $249.3.

The Indiana-based company, which operates on a fiscal year ending on June 30, 2016, also reported its six-month performance that showed net income increased 8.4% to $18 million through the end of last year compared to the same time in 2014. Earnings per diluted share fell to 64 cents from 69 cents a year earlier.

Revenue for the six months increased 30.2% to $541.5 million while freight revenue increased 41.2% to $487.1 million.

"We had great success in the quarter growing top line revenues in a less than robust freight environment,” said Paul Will, CEO. “We saw improvement in some of our key operating statistics that we believe will be beneficial long term as capacity is challenged by a very competitive driver recruiting market, in addition to the numerous pending and proposed federal safety initiatives such as electronic logging devices (ELDs) and mandatory truck speed limiters.”

Will said an increase in its average seated tractor count of 1,693, or 46.8%, to 5,314 in the December 2015 quarter compared with 3,621 in the December 2014 quarter was a significant operating metric improvement that resulted in increased revenue for the quarter. However, the ending seated tractor count decreased to 5,337 at the end of December, from 5,375 at the end of September.

“Our average revenue per tractor per week decreased $374, or 11.9%, to $2,775 in the December 2015 quarter, from $3,149 in the December 2014 quarter. This decrease is a result of a lackluster freight environment coupled with the significant growth in our seated tractor count,” he said. “We continue to increase our customer freight to better align with our increased fleet size. In addition, our average revenue per loaded mile increased to $1.917 per mile in the December 2015 quarter from $1.798 in the December 2014 quarter, which is a 6.6% increase.”

Will also pointed out that Celadon's latest results have two items that negatively impacted its earnings. One was approximately $1.2 million of transition-related expenses from its previously announced acquisition of the truckload assets of Tango Transport during the quarter. The second was associated with decreased earnings related to the lower sales volume of assets in the quarter, which related primarily to the holiday season as well as the timing of funding within the period, according to the company.

Celadon also announced on Wednesday that the company’s board of directors approved a regular cash dividend to shareholders for the quarter ending March 31, 2016. The quarterly cash dividend of 2 cents per share of common stock will be payable on April 22, 2016 to shareholders of record at the close of business on April 8, 2016.

More details are on the Celadon website.

Update adds expectations from Zacks Investment Research.

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