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Earnings Watch: Saia Earnings Up, C.H. Robinson Down

October 26, 2016

By Evan Lockridge

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As more trucking companies report third quarter earnings, most are showing profits are down from the same time a year ago – but there are a few exceptions.

The less-than-truckload feet Saia Inc. (NASDAQ: SAIA) reported net income increased to $13.8 million from $11.8 million. Earnings per share increased to 54 cents from 46 cents, 4 cents better than a consensus estimate from analysts.

Revenue moved down just 0.2% from a year earlier to $316 million, while operating income increased to $22.6 million from $19.8 million.

"Third quarter operating results reflect our continued pricing discipline and our company-wide efforts aimed at achieving operating efficiencies across all areas of our network," said Saia President and CEO Rick O'Dell, citing year-over-year improvements in dock, city and linehaul productivity.

He said freight rates increased an average of 5.7% on contractual renewals in the quarter. In early October the Georgia-based company implemented a general rate increase of 4.9%.

During the quarter LTL shipments per workday fell by 1.2%, and LTL tonnage per workday declined by 2.9%, while LTL yield increased 3.7%.

"Though the economic environment continues to offer only tepid growth, I was encouraged to see our LTL shipment trend turn positive in September for the first time since February," O'Dell said.

C.H. Robinson Profit Slides As Freight Rates Sink

In contrast, earnings for third-party logistics provider C.H. Robinson Worldwide Inc. (NASDAQ: CHRW) fell by 7.5% to $129 million in the third quarter from the same time a year ago, while revenue declined 5.1% to $558.5 million due to lower freight rates.

Earnings per share totaled 90 cents in the most recent quarter, 7 cents short of Wall Street expectations and down from 96 cents a year earlier.

“We expected a challenging pricing environment in 2016 as shippers focus on reducing their transportation costs," said John Wiehoff, CEO and chairman. "Despite the decrease in some of our key financial metrics in the third quarter, we feel confident that we are making good progress on our long-term plans. We are adapting to the market conditions by achieving profitable volume growth and continuing to focus on improving our customers’ supply chain outcomes.”

The Minnesota-based company saw truckload revenue drop 10.4% to $309 million in the third quarter, despite total truckload volumes increasing approximately 7.5% year-over-year. North American truckload volumes also increased approximately 7.5% over the same period.

According to the company its truckload net revenue margin was lower in the third quarter of 2016 than the third quarter of 2015, due primarily to lower customer pricing. In North America, excluding estimated impacts of changes in fuel prices, the average truckload rate per mile charged to customers fell approximately 5.5% in the third quarter of 2016 compared to a year earlier.

However, C.H. Robinson’s less-than-truckload revenue increased 2.4% in the third quarter of 2016 to $96.4 million from a year earlier. LTL volumes increased about 4.5% while net revenue margin decreased slightly.

The company’s intermodal net revenues fell by 24.5% to $7.7 million in the third quarter of 2016, attributed mainly to net revenue margin declines. It was additionally hurt by the alternative lower cost truck market.

C.H. Robinson also reported revenue fell in its ocean transportation, 3.1% in the third quarter. However, its other logistics services net revenues, which includes managed services, warehousing, and small parcel, increased 31%, primarily from growth in managed services, according to the company.

So far during this third quarter earnings season, Saia and Swift Transportation are the only publicly held trucking companies to report an increase in profits, while Marten Transport’s earnings were unchanged from a year earlier. 

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