Every business relies on its customers for its success. For XPO Logistics (NYSE:XPO), having clients that want to move things from one place to another is the bread and butter of its business, and XPO can only be as healthy as its customer base is. When tough times affect customers, the impact can get passed on to XPO as well.
Coming into Wednesday's third-quarter financial report, XPO investors had high hopes that the company would post solid gains in revenue and profit. XPO did indeed see good results, but its success was held back by the woes of one of its customers, and that disappointed those who'd wanted to see even better performance from the logistics company.
XPO's mixed quarter
XPO Logistics' third-quarter results had a lot of encouraging numbers, even if they didn't fully live up to expectations. Revenue was higher by 11.5% to $4.34 billion, which was only a bit shy of the 13% growth rate that most of those following the stock had wanted to see. Adjusted net income soared 58% to $121.3 million, but the resulting adjusted earnings of $0.89 per share were still less than the consensus forecast for $0.98 per share.
However, XPO had a quick explanation for part of its shortfall. The logistics company said that one of its customers was in bankruptcy during the quarter, and that resulted in a $15.6 million pre-tax charge against earnings. That reduced the adjusted earnings figure above by $0.07 per share.
From a segment perspective, gains for XPO were once again relatively well balanced. The transportation segment saw a 10.5% rise in revenue for the quarter, with solid performance in freight brokerage and last-mile business in North America contributing to the positive performance. Dedicated truckload transportation in the U.K. and France were also helpful in bolstering XPO's results. Segment operating profit jumped by $50 million compared with year-ago figures, coming in at $195.2 million. Adjusted operating ratios improved by more than 2 percentage points to 85.4% for the period.
The logistics segment saw even greater revenue growth, coming in at 13%. As we've seen in previous quarters, rising demand for logistics from the e-commerce industry helped boost global performance, and other favorable influences included the consumer packaged goods and food and beverage sectors in North America as well as the fashion sector in European markets. However, the customer bankruptcy was in the logistics area, and that sent operating income down by double-digit percentages from year-earlier figures.
CEO Brad Jacobs put the news in perspective. "Our robust organic growth," Jacobs said, "was led by strong demand for e-commerce logistics and freight brokerage." The CEO was pleased with operational improvements and rising profit margin even in the face of the one-time hit to its business.
What's next for XPO?
XPO has a lot of things in the pipeline right now. In Jacobs' words, "Our disciplined investments in growth over the past 18 months are gaining traction. ... Our leading positions in sectors such as e-commerce, as well as our capacity for innovation, should keep us growing faster than the industry in any macro environment."
The possibility of a buyout continued to swirl around XPO. The company kept comments short, with the CEO simply saying that "we're continuing to explore acquisition opportunities that will further accelerate our trajectory."
However, because of the bankruptcy issue, XPO had to cut its guidance for the full year. Now the logistics provider expects adjusted pre-tax operating earnings to come in around $1.585 billion, down from its previous $1.6 billion guidance. Still, free cash flow should remain at about $1 billion when you combine the 2017 and 2018 periods.
XPO investors weren't happy about the bankrupt customer issue, and the stock fell almost 4% in after-hours trading following the announcement. However, once XPO puts the past behind it, it still has the favorable tailwinds from booming e-commerce and rising needs for logistics services to help it recover from its slump.