XPO registered tonnage growth in the fourth quarter, bucking an industry trend of mid- to high-single-digit declines, on its way to beating analysts’ expectations.
The company reported fourth-quarter adjusted earnings per share of 98 cents Wednesday after the market closed. The result was 14 cents ahead of consensus, according to Seeking Alpha, and 34 cents higher year over year (y/y).
The number excluded several items related to the spinoff of its brokerage unit (NYSE: RXO), a noncash impairment charge in its European transportation business and other acquisition, integration and restructuring costs. XPO (NYSE: XPO) announced in December that it was pulling the divestiture of the European business due to the deterioration in capital markets abroad.
Adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of $252 million in the LTL segment pushed the full-year figure to more than $1 billion and in line with management’s guidance.
Revenue in LTL was 9% higher y/y at $1.09 billion as tonnage increased 1% and revenue per hundredweight, or yield, grew 8% (up 1% y/y excluding fuel surcharges). Shipments per day were 2% higher but partially offset by a 1% decline in weight per shipment.
XPO said it saw better than normal seasonality in January and that tonnage was up y/y by an undisclosed percentage during the month.
“Our growth plan for LTL is to invest in capacity ahead of demand and earn market share by providing best-in-class service,” CEO Mario Harik stated in a news release.
Fourth-quarter yields came in at the low end of management’s expectations and below that of peers as the company saw an increase in customers using next- and two-day lanes, which resulted in a lower length of haul (down 2% y/y).
Also, XPO had a mix shift toward local shipments with smaller shippers. Those customers typically produce better yields but they are more sensitive to declines in macroeconomic conditions. Shipments from the group were up by mid-single percentages in the quarter but tonnage was down by a similar amount due a reduction in shipment weights.
Annual contracts renewed during the quarter came in 7% higher y/y.
“When you think about pricing overall in the industry, it’s still very disciplined,” Tavio Headley, chief investor relations officer, told FreightWaves.
Adjusted OR in LTL was 60 bps better y/y at 87.1%, but light of management’s guidance calling for 120 bps of improvement. Severe weather in the back half of December and higher than expected labor and maintenance costs were the culprits.
“We clearly drove above industry average tonnage growth and we ended the year at over $1 billion of LTL EBITDA,” Headley said. “We came through on the target that we promised.”
Beginning in the first quarter of 2023, XPO will report ORs in line with that of its peers. The number will exclude pension income and include roughly $20 million per quarter in previously unallocated corporate expenses that were part of its former transportation conglomerate model.
The all-in adjusted OR for the fourth quarter was 90.3% and 86.8% for full-year 2022. The company’s long-term guidance for at least 600 bps of OR improvement by 2027 began at the all-in 2021 OR of 87.6%.
Revenue from the European transportation unit was down 4% y/y to $738 million. However, excluding a drag from foreign currency exchange, revenue was 9% higher. Adjusted EBITDA was flat y/y at $39 million.
The company will host a call with analysts on Thursday at 8:30 a.m. EST. Stay tuned to FreightWaves for continuing coverage of XPO’s fourth-quarter results.
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