Although many analysts are expecting generally lower fourth quarter earnings for the nation’s publicly held companies, J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. (NASDAQ:JBHT) kicked off earnings season for trucking on Thursday by reporting a 6% increase in profit.
The Arkansas-based multi-modal freight transporter had earnings of $116.7 million compared to $110.3 in the final quarter of 2014, which it attributed to increased operating income and lower net interest expense.
Earnings per diluted share were $1.01 in the final quarter of 2015 compared to 93 cents a year earlier, a 9% gain, beating an expected estimate from Zacks Investment Research by 1%.
Operating income for the current quarter increased 5% to $192.9 million compared to $182.9 million for the fourth quarter 2014.
“The increase primarily reflects higher revenue in JBI [intermodal], DCS [dedicated] and JBT [trucking] business segments, improved fuel economy and lower maintenance costs on newer equipment, less reliance on third-party carriers in JBI and DCS, expanding gross margins in ICS [logictics/brokerage] and lower safety and insurance costs in JBT,” the fleet said in a statement.
Total operating revenue for the fourth quarter of 2015 was $1.62 billion, a 1% improvement over the $1.61 billion in the final quarter of 2014. Total operating revenue, excluding fuel surcharges, increased 9% from 2014.
The company said load growth of 6% in JBI was the primary reason for a 1% increase in segment revenue. The dedicated DCS segment revenue increased by 2%, primarily from new customer accounts and rate increases. Truck segment revenue increased 3%, primarily from customer rate increases and an increase in fleet size. \
However, the company said its logistics segment revenue in its Integrated Capacity Solutions business dropped by 4%, mostly from less spot market activity and lower revenue per load.
For all of 2015, J.B. Hunt total revenue was nearly unchanged from 2014 at $6.2 billion, while net earnings improved to $427.2 million from $374.8 million in 2015.
Diluted earnings per share in 2015 were $3.66 compared to $3.16 a year earlier, a 16% increase. Operating income in 2015 totaled $715.7 million, a 13% hike.
More details, including individual segment performance, can be found on the J.B. Hunt website.