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UPS Fourth Quarter Profit Falls

February 3, 2015

By Evan Lockridge

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Photo: UPS
Photo: UPS

Depending on how you look at it, parcel and trucking giant UPS either saw its fourth quarter profit fall a little or a lot compared to a year earlier, thanks to expenses incurred avoiding the previous year's holiday delivery delays – but it still made a chunk of change.

According to its financial statement released Tuesday, net income tumbled more than 61%, but the Georgia-based company still took home $453 million. Diluted earnings per share fell from $1.25 a year earlier to 49 cents in the final quarter of 2014.

This came as total revenue for the company increased 6.1% from $15 billion in the final quarter of 2013 to $15.9 billion in the most recent fourth quarter.

UPS said "adjusted" net income fell by only 1.9% to $1.1 billion, while adjusted diluted earning were unchanged at $1.25 per share. The adjustments exclude income taxes and increased pension expenses totaling nearly $700 million.

Late last month the company announced its expected fourth quarter results, which were consistent with Tuesday’s final announcement. UPS also reported that operating results in the U.S. domestic segment were negatively impacted by higher-than-expected expenses for its peak delivery season.

"UPS customers were delighted with the high-quality service we delivered during the holiday season," said David Abney, UPS CEO. "However, the financial results were below our expectations.”

Total revenue for UPS during 2014 increased 5% from the year before to $58.2 billion, while net income fell 30.6% to $3.03 billion. Diluted earnings per share declined from $4.61 to $3.28.

On an adjusted basis, 2014 net income was up 1.2% from 2013 to $4.4 billion while diluted earning per share were $4.75 compared to $4.57.

UPS Supply Chain and UPS Freight

In UPS’ supply chain and freight operation, revenue increased 7.4% in the fourth quarter from a year earlier to $2.5 billion, driven by growth in its Distribution and UPS Freight operations. Adjusted operating profit increased 4.7% to $179 million as improvements in the Distribution and UPS Freight businesses were offset by declines in the Forwarding unit, according to the company.

UPS Freight experienced revenue growth of 8.6% during the fourth quarter compared to a year earlier, primarily driven by less-than-truckload tonnage gains of 4.8% and yield improvements. The business unit expanded operating profit and margin over the prior year.

On a reported basis, operating loss for the fourth quarter 2014 was $25 million compared to an operating profit of $171 million a year earlier, as a result of the pension mark-to-market charge and the transfer of certain healthcare liabilities, according to the company. For the year, this operation reported operating profit fell nearly 36% from 2013 to $432 million.

Parcel Operations

UPS said it delivered 1.3 billion packages during the fourth quarter, 8.1% more than last year. For calendar year 2014, the company completed delivery of 4.6 billion packages, up 6.8% over 2013.

During peak season 2014, UPS hired 100,000 temporary employees and delivered 572 million packages worldwide in December. It experienced a 12% increase in both Cyber Monday and Peak Day deliveries, exceeding company projections, while Peak Day scheduled deliveries exceeded 35 million packages, more than 100% above an average day

In the company’s package delivery business, U.S. domestic fourth quarter revenue climbed 7.5% to $10 billion.

Fourth quarter adjusted operating profit was $1.1 billion, a 5.3% drop from the prior-year period. Operating expense increased more than $200 million primarily due to higher than anticipated peak-related costs, according to the company. Decreased productivity, higher contract carrier rates as well as overtime and training hours contributed to the excess costs.

Total revenue per package was down 0.8%, as lower fuel surcharges and changes in product mix offset increases in base rates.

On a reported basis, fourth quarter 2014 operating profit was down 63% to $444 million as a result of the pension mark-to-market charge and the transfer of certain healthcare liabilities, according to the company.

Outlook

"This year will be one of continuous improvement and advances in strategic initiatives that have great potential for the company," said Kurt Kuehn, UPS chief financial officer. "E-commerce growth, operations technology implementation, emerging market expansion and industry specific solutions will provide momentum for UPS as we move throughout the year.

UPS anticipate full-year 2015 diluted earnings per share of $5.05 to $5.30, a 6% to 12% increase over our 2014 adjusted results.

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