What happened

Shares of small-cap postal delivery solutions provider Pitney Bowes (PBI 0.53%) tanked 21.5% in 1:20 p.m. EST trading this afternoon, despite a modest earnings beat reported this morning.  

Heading into earnings, analysts had estimated that Pitney Bowes earned $0.10 per share, pro forma, on $939 million in revenue in the fourth quarter of 2020. As it turns out, Pitney Bowes earned $0.13 per share, and on sales of more than $1 billion.

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Image source: Getty Images.

So what

Pitney Bowes CEO Marc Lautenbach exulted that Q4 produced the company's "highest modern day, organic [revenue] growth rate on record for us," resulting in "a remarkable ending to an extraordinary year."

Sales were up 24% year over year in the quarter and, in addition to the pro forma number, Pitney Bowes reported an $0.11 per share profit as calculated according to generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), and $0.09 per share, GAAP, from continuing operations.

For the full year, however, Pitney's sales grew 11%, but the company's GAAP profit was negative -- a $1.06 per share loss. (The pro forma number for the year was a profit of $0.30 per share.)  

Now what

Looking ahead to 2021, Pitney Bowes anticipates continuing to grow its revenue, but only "in the low-to-mid single digit range." Applied to the company's $3.6 billion in 2020 revenue, that seems to imply sales of perhaps $3.7 billion, a number that is roughly in line with analyst projections.

Pro forma earnings are also expected to grow, although management did not say by how much. Analysts are forecasting $0.40 -- more than Pitney earned in 2020, but still less than it earned in 2019 -- which would seem to imply that 2021 will be something less than "extraordinary" for Pitney Bowes.