E-Commerce elevates FedEx Express in 1QFY17

FedEx reported net profit up 3.3% y-o-y to $715 million in the first quarter of its 2017 fiscal year, driven primarily by the strong performance of its US Domestic overnight services, which saw substantial volume increases and stable yields.

It should be noted that, for the first time, FedEx has added a new heading to its earnings report, to reflect income and revenue from TNT Express, which it acquired last year. Even though integration costs related to the TNT integration totaled $68 million, FedEx’s overall revenues swelled by almost 20%. Alan Graf, FedEx Corporation’s EVP and CFO said regarding the TNT acquisition, it is “the largest acquisition in FedEx’s history, transformed the world’s transportation logistics industry rapidly accelerating our European and global growth strategy as one-third of total FedEx Corporation revenue now touches a country outside of the United States.”

The chart at right shows FedEx’s results as reported, with operating income up 10.5% to $1.26 billion, as revenue swelled by 19.4% to $14.7 billion. Revenue attributed to TNT Express was $1.8 billion.

Looking specifically at the FedEx Express segment, segment operating income as reported was up 14.5% to $624 million. Total package volume was up 1.3% driven by strong US Domestic demand.  High-yield products US Overnight Box and Overnight Envelope posted significant average daily volume increases of 3.7% and 5.4% respectively. Composite US Package yields meanwhile were up 1.5%, and International Package yield was “slightly negative,” down 0.6%.

The company said Express operating results improved due to “higher package volume and increased freight pounds” which in turn “more than offset lower fuel surcharges and unfavorable currency exchange rates.”

It was also another solid quarter for FedEx’s Ground unit which continued to “grow nicely, driven in large part by e-commerce.” The unit saw revenues increase 12% year-over-year (12.6% accounting for the impact of fuel costs). Daily average FedEx ground volumes rose 10%, “driven by robust growth in both residential and commercial segments.”

FedEx Freight also reported strong increases to revenue which increased 4% in Q1, and average daily shipments which jumped 8% compared to the same period in FedEx’s 2016 fiscal year. Mike Glenn, President and CEO, FedEx Services, said, “the continued strength in shipment volume is driven by our outstanding sales efforts with small and medium customers and reflects the speed, reliability, and choice of priority and economy service for our LTL customers.”

Turning from the numbers, which are readily apparent in the chart, to some larger issues, FedEx executives had some interesting comments during a conference call following publication of the quarterly results. Of particular interest, was a focus on the current and future impact of e-commerce, and the TNT integration. FedEx said its customers were increasingly purchasing larger items through e-commerce channels. Glenn said, “we’ve engineered our network’s sortation and delivery capacity for these larger packages, including entire temporary facilities dedicated to the sortation of oversized packages, which will be critically important this upcoming peak season.” To account for the added cost of handling such packages, and to encourage shippers to use more appropriate packaging, FedEx will increase rates for oversized parcels beginning next January.

Earlier this week, FedEx announced it will implement the following rate increases beginning on 2 January, 2017:

Returning to the integration of TNT Express, the company said it expects the entire integration process will take about four years although by FY18 the company expects “TNT will be accretive, including integration and restructuring costs.” In North America, FedEx Express has already begun taking over TNT volumes previously handled by third-party delivery partners. Across the Atlantic, FedEx is also planning to inject initial volumes into five TNT Europe road network lanes beginning sometime this month.

Also of interest, during the call an analyst asked for an update regarding FedEx’s position on disruptive technologies like UAVs. CEO and President, Fred Smith said that indeed like other companies FedEX was experimenting and had five ongoing UAV and robotics related experiments, mostly within the Ground segment. Unlike many other companies however, Smith says that FedEx prefers “to keep working those issues, and tell you about them when they make a meaningful difference in the company. He went on to illustrate the capabilities of the autopilot system in the company’s 777 freighter fleet, noting that “they can take off, land the plane and taxi to the gate and turn themselves off if that’s what we chose to do so.” That being said, Smith added, “it’s very difficult in the foreseeable future to substitute for the well trained pilot or driver or person. And we look at the use of automation more as an opportunity to improve the productivity of those types of experts within our system to make their job more comfortable and easy and above all to increase safety.”

If you would like to learn more about FedEx, join us at the Cargo Facts Symposium in Miami, 10 – 12 October, where FedEx Executive Vice President, Raj Subramaniam will speak on a panel which will explore the impact of e-commerce on the air freight and express industry. To register, or for more information, go to CargoFactsSymposium.com.

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