Fleet Management

Earnings Watch: UPS Jumps; YRC Improves; ODFL, Universal Lower

April 28, 2016

By Evan Lockridge

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UPDATED -- Another day, another raft of earnings reports on Thursday from the nation’s publicly owned trucking companies. Continuing a trend this first quarter, the companies' numbers are as varied as the services they offer.

Big Brown Sets Record

Package delivery, trucking and logistics giant United Parcel Service Inc. (NYSE:UPS), commonly known as UPS, says it hit a new first-quarter record for earnings per share of $1.27, a 13% increase over the same period last year and 5 cents better than a consensus estimate from Zacks Investment Research.

Net income increased 10.2% to $1.13 billion while total revenue was $14.4 billion, up 3.2% over the same quarter last year.

The Georgia-based operation said U.S. domestic and international small package segments drove the results, but revenue growth was slowed by lower fuel surcharges and currency exchange rates.

Supply chain and freight segment revenue increased by more than 10% to $2.4 billion.

“This was mainly due to the acquisition of Coyote Logistics in the third quarter of last year,” UPS said in a statement. “Operating profit was better than anticipated, but slightly less than last year. Weak market conditions in the air freight forwarding and less-than-truckload (LTL) markets weighed on top line growth. The asset-light, truckload brokerage business is performing well, even in a market that remains soft.”

UPS Freight LTL revenue per hundredweight increased 2.1% over the same period last year, but total tonnage remains challenged by the current market conditions.

U.S. domestic package operating profit increased 7.6% to $1.1 billion. Total revenue increased 3.1% over the first quarter of 2015, to $9.1 billion.

International package operating profit jumped more than 15% to $574 million during the quarter as total revenue increased 3.1% over the first quarter of 2015, to $9.1 billion.

“Revenue management actions and improved network efficiencies are driving substantial operating profit growth,” said Richard Peretz, UPS chief financial officer. “We expect this momentum to continue, and therefore reaffirm our guidance for 2016 full-year diluted earnings per share of $5.70 to $5.90, an increase of 5% to 9% over adjusted 2015 results.”

There may be one hurdle UPS will have to overcome. According to Bloomberg, the company warned it may have to take a $3.2 billion to $3.8 billion charge against its future earnings due to a potential pension-fund obligation. However, the company performance has been so healthy UPS said earnings per share for 2016 would like still fall within its forecast.

YRC Cuts First Quarter Loss By Nearly Half

In the mainly LTL world, YRC Worldwide (NASDAQ: YRCW) reported it cut its first quarter loss by nearly half compared to a year ago despite doing a little less business.

Its net loss of $12 million compares to one of $21.6 million a year earlier, a 44.4% decline. The loss per share fell to 37 cents, beating analyst expectations by a penny, and down from a loss of 70 cents during the first quarter of 2015.

Revenue in the most recent quarter totaled $1.12 billion, a decline of 5.6% from a year earlier for the Kansas-based holding company that operates the fleets YRC Freight, YRC Reimer, Holland, Reddaway, and New Penn.

Adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA), was $62.9 million in first quarter 2016, a $4.1 million increase compared to a year earlier.

According to CEO James Welch, in the first quarter of 2016, the company’s adjusted EBITDA improved by 7% compared to a year ago and improved 20% over the last 12 months.

“These results were driven by consistent and improved customer service, base rate increases, tightly managed costs and productivity gains,” he said. “Additionally, our ongoing focus to improve price, freight mix and profitability has contributed to higher year-over-year revenue per hundredweight, excluding fuel surcharge, for eight consecutive quarters at YRC Freight and 20 consecutive quarters at the regional segment."

At the company’s national operations, YRC Freight, first quarter 2016 tonnage per day decreased 6.7%. Excluding fuel surcharges, first quarter 2016 revenue per shipment increased 1.8% and revenue per hundredweight rose by 3.7% when compared to the same period in 2015. Including fuel surcharge, revenue per shipment decreased 2.3% and revenue per hundredweight fell 0.5%.

The company’s regional operations say tonnage per day fall 3.8%. Excluding fuel surcharges, revenue per shipment increased 0.8% and revenue per hundredweight moved higher by 2.4% compared to the first quarter 2015. Including fuel surcharge, revenue per shipment decreased 3.1% and revenue per hundredweight declined 1.6%.

The results follow years of troubled times for YRC Worldwide. In 2015 it posted net income of just $700,000, but that was far better than loss of $67.7 million in 2014. Also, in 2013 the company lost $83.6 million after posting a loss of $140.4 million in 2012 and fought off bankruptcy for several years.

ODFL Profit Slips Less Than 3%

Also, in the LTL sector, first quarter earnings for the mainly less-than-truckload carrier Old Dominion Freight Line Inc. (NASDAQ: ODFL) edged lower in what it and others have described as a challenging freight environment.

The 2.3% decline from a year ago to $84 million came as revenue increased 1.6% to $707.7 million.

Earnings per share totaled 72 cents per share compared to 73 cents a year earlier, missing a consensus expectation of 76 cents from analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research.

According to David S. Congdon, vice chairman and CEO, the North Carolina-based company first-quarter revenue growth of 1.6% reflects an economy that remained sluggish as well as the impact of a 23.3% decline in fuel surcharges.

“Our non-LTL revenue decreased $8.9 million, or 40.2%, primarily due to the strategic elimination of certain services in the second half of 2015,” he said. “While our revenue growth was not as strong as we would have liked, we continue to be encouraged by our ability to win market share in this environment and will remain focused on the consistent execution of our long-term business strategies.”

LTL revenue growth in the first quarter included a 1.2% increase in LTL tons per day and a 0.3% increase in LTL revenue per hundredweight, according to the company. LTL shipments per day increased 4.5%, but overall tonnage growth was affected by the decline in weight per shipment.

“The pricing environment was relatively stable during the quarter, as reflected by the 3.8% increase in LTL revenue per hundredweight, excluding fuel surcharges; however, we have recently noted some increased price competition,” Congdon said. “While we recognize that a soft economic environment can lead to the loss of pricing discipline in the industry, we have not seen signs of broad-based irrational pricing.”

In a note to investors, analysts at the investment banking firm Stifel said, “One of the things we really like about Old Dominion is the company is long-term focused and won't cut planned spending to try and ‘make’ a quarter, which it could've done, in our opinion. Investments continued in systems, facilities, and equipment, as the goal is to be a much bigger carrier with more volume and more profits.”

Universal Truckload Profit Falls 8.5%

Also seeing slightly lower profit is freight transportation and logistics provider Universal Truckload Services Inc. (NASDAQ: UACL), dropping 8.5% from the first quarter of 2015 to $7.5 million in its fiscal quarter ending April 2.

Earnings per share declined 1 cent to 26 cents per share, but it beat Wall Street expectations by the same margin.

Total revenue slipped 1.2% to $260.4 million as operating revenues from its transportation services fell 6.5%, to $149.9 million. The latter includes an $8.4 million decrease in fuel surcharges, as well as a 6.7% decrease in average operating revenues per load excluding fuel surcharges.

“Load volumes were relatively stable, increasing a modest 1.1%, however, a weak pricing environment and declining fuel surcharges drove the overall decline,” the company said in a news release.

Universal’s value-added services, which includes cross-docks, warehousing and other offerings, saw revenue increase 7.6% in the most recent quarter to $75.6 million, reflecting new business awarded in the second half of 2015, according to the company.

Intermodal service revenues also increased, 6%, to $34.9 million compared to the same period last year. Universal said this includes a $2.7 million increase in drayage revenues, partially offset by lower domestic intermodal and depot services.

"We are starting to see the growth anticipated in our value-added services," said CEO Jeff Rogers. "However, a soft pricing environment and low diesel prices continues to put downward pressure in our transportation service revenues. Once again, intermodal performed very well for us and we are getting excited about the improvements made in our dedicated operations.”

Update adds YRC Worldwide earnings.

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