Shares of trucking company Knight-Swift Transportation Holdings (NYSE:KNX) jumped out of the gate when shares resumed trading after Knight's Q4 earnings report, which came out last night. As of 3:40 p.m. EST, Knight-Swift stock is up a good 10.1%.
Knight reported both Q4 and full-year earnings last night. The company earned $2.50 per share on $1.4 billion in sales for the quarter ($0.52 adjusted for one-time items), and $4.34 per share on $2.4 billion in sales for the year.
Wall Street liked these numbers -- because it had predicted much less. Focusing on Q4 pro forma results, analysts had told investors to expect only $0.41 per share in profit, a target that Knight ended up beating by 27%. After seeing Knight miss earnings twice in the previous three quarters, this was a nice surprise and probably contributed to the size of the stock's pop in price.
Even aside from beating expectations, Knight had some pretty nice numbers. Quarterly profit spiked more than 800% in comparison with last year's Q4. Granted, this was mainly a function of Knight's getting much bigger after its merger with Swift. Still, Knight's full-year earnings nearly quadrupled over 2016 numbers.
Commenting on the status of the merger, CEO Dave Jackson cited "early progress on synergies, sharing best practices between our brands, and cost control." As for the economic environment in which the merged company is operating, Jackson observed that "the freight environment continued to strengthen in the fourth quarter and showed more staying power than is typical into late December and January" and added: "We believe we have begun experiencing the impact of the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate in December, as seen through increased freight tenders as well as tightness in third party carrier capacity. We continue to focus on improving yield to support driver wages and improved profitability."
Management did not provide specific sales or earnings guidance for the year, but judging from what it did say -- and what it did earn in Q4 -- I'd say things are looking pretty good so far.