Fleet Management

Earnings Watch: XPO Logistics Glows while USA Truck, Celadon Deal with Woes

May 03, 2017

By Evan Lockridge

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One of the biggest names in trucking reported first quarter earnings this week showing it turned its fortunes around for the better, while losses grew at another fleet and a third’s financial problems were surrounded not only by questions of its accounting practices but also about its long-term survival.

XPO Logistics Inc. said it recorded net income of $19.5 million, or 16 cents per share, compared to a net loss a year ago of $23.2 million, or 21 cents per share. The per share performance matched Wall Street expectations.

Revenue was just slightly lower at $3.54 billion, with the year earlier figure excluding revenue from the former Con-way truckload unit that XPO sold off in late 2016.

“We started the year on a strong note by solidly beating our expectations for earnings, and continuing to expand margins in both transportation and logistics,” said Bradley Jacobs, chairman and CEO. “In North American less-than-truckload, we increased operating income by a robust 49%, in part by running our linehaul, cross-dock and pickup-and-delivery operations more efficiently. Our market-leading position in e-commerce continued to drive growth in last mile and contract logistics, and our intermodal unit won the largest contract in any business line in XPO history."

The company's transportation segment generated revenue of $2.28 billion for the quarter, compared with $2.3 billion for the same period in 2016, reflecting the divestiture of the North American truckload unit, according to XPO. The divested operations contributed $128.8 million of revenue in the first quarter of 2016. The company said organic revenue growth for the segment was led by last mile and truck brokerage, partially offset by lower revenue in expedited and global forwarding, and unfavorable foreign exchange rates.

Operating income for the transportation segment increased to $100.8 million, compared with operating income of $75.4 million a year ago

XPO’s logistics segment generated total revenue of $1.30 billion for the quarter, compared with $1.26 billion for the same period in 2016. The year-over-year increase in revenue was primarily due to growth in contract logistics in Europe.

Operating income for the logistics segment increased to $47.2 million, compared with $31.9 million a year ago.

XPO reaffirmed its full-year targets for adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) of at least $1.35 billion for 2017 and at least $1.575 billion for 2018. It also reaffirmed its 2017-2018 cumulative free cash flow target of approximately $900 million, including at least $350 million of free cash flow generated in 2017.

USA Expects to Be Profitable Soon despite Bigger Loss

In contrast, financial losses at USA Truck Inc. grew, but officials at the carrier are forecasting a return to profitability later in the year.

Its net loss widened to $4.9 million, or 61 cents per share, compared to a net loss of $1.8 million, or 19 cents per share, a year earlier. This happened as revenue declined to $101.7 million from $110.6 million. A consensus estimate from analysts had forecast a loss of 12 cents per share for the first quarter.

According to the company, included in this latest earnings report is $4.5 million in compensation claims, another $5.3 million in costs relating to restructuring and outlays, and $0.8 million in severance costs.

“Having now completed three months in the role as USA Truck’s CEO, I believe we are making important strides toward improving our trucking segment’s productivity, and taking the right steps in building a lean and efficient company that can generate profits in the relative near-term and create sustainable value over time,” said President and CEO James Reed. “My first priority has been, and will continue to be, returning USA Truck to profitability as quickly as possible.”

USA reported its trucking segment operating revenue declined 7.2%, to $70.3 million for the first quarter of 2017 primarily due to approximately 11% fewer seated tractors and a 3% decrease in base revenue per loaded mile, offset by higher fuel surcharge revenue. Its operating loss was $7.1 million for the 2017 period compared to $4.4 million a year earlier.

At its USAT Logistics, operating revenue decreased 10.1% year-over-year and 5.4% from the previous quarter, while operating income decreased 63.7% year-over-year and 52.8% from the fourth quarter of 2016. It said the year-over-year change in operating income was the result of a 12.3% decrease in gross margin, combined with 6.6% less revenue per shipment and 3.8% fewer loads.

Despite these financial setbacks, Reed said USA Truck expects to “return to operating profitability” in the third quarter of 2017.

He noted that in the trucking segment there was a 4.8% increase in average miles per seated tractor per week, when compared to the same time a year ago, and a 1.4% increase over the fourth quarter of 2016. Also, base revenue per seated tractor per week improved to $3,040, an increase of approximately 0.9% year-over-year and 0.7% from the prior quarter. Both improvements, Reed said, were overshadowed by continued challenges in the company’s seated tractor count.

Celadon Preview Comes amid Warnings, Allegations

Meantime at Celadon Group Inc., officials announced that preliminary financial results for the first quarter are expected to include an operating loss of approximately $10 million, primarily attributed to losses in the company's irregular route freight operations.

“While we are disappointed by the preliminary results for the quarter due to poor performance in our irregular route freight business, the recent management changes will strengthen our truckload team, and we are executing a plan to boost operating discipline and achieve positive results,” said Paul Will, chairman and CEO.

However, more troubling for investors is that the company also revealed that some of its previous financial statements can no longer be relied upon. Its audit committee is reviewing, with independent legal and accounting experts, certain transactions involving the value of used trucks it disposed of for its 2016 fiscal year, which ended at the close of June 2016.

Celadon’s auditor, BKD LLP, has notified the company it has determined that, based on additional information concerning transactions involving "revenue equipment held for sale," BKD has been unable to obtain sufficient evidence to provide a reasonable basis to support its previously issued reports on the company's financial statements. This affects not only earnings statements for fiscal 2016, but also for the quarters ending in September and December of last year, the first half of 2017 fiscal year.

All such equipment was sold to third parties or was contributed to the 19th Capital Group joint venture between Celadon and Element Fleet Management, prior to the end of 2016.

The insufficient appropriate audit evidence relates to the carrying values and accounting, and related structure, substance, and disclosure, of transactions involving dispositions and acquisitions of revenue equipment between June and December of 2016, according to Celadon.

Revenue equipment held for sale is recorded at the lower of cost or fair value, however, according to published reports, there are concerns the trucks were overvalued.

Celadon said it plans to release full first quarter earnings no later than May 15.

This news came as Celadon also announced it has shuffled company management and has secured a new $225 million line of secured credit with Bank of America, which will be used to refinance existing debt and support ongoing working capital and general corporate outlays, but there are big questions about its future.

According to the Indianapolis Business Journal, this news about Celadon sent shares of the company sharply lower this week to nearly an all-time low.

Prescience Point Research Group, which specializes in recommendations of short-selling of stocks, said in a report last month that Celadon is close to collapsing and is the target of a Securities Exchange Commission investigation while saying the company’s stock is worthless.

Also in April, the investment research website Seeking Alpha ran a story in which it said it believed Celadon "is a house of cards on the brink of collapse," due to its financial problems.

Accordng to Celadon's website, it is one of the largest trucking companies in North America, operating roughly 3,000 tractors and 8,700 trailers although Transport Topics, the ATA newspaper, places the figures higher at 4.253 and 13,327, respectively.

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