Will 2016 Be FedEx Corporation's Best Year Yet?

FedEx Corporation stumbled in 2015 -- will it find its footing in 2016?

Justin Loiseau
Justin Loiseau
Dec 29, 2015 at 2:00PM
Energy, Materials, and Utilities

Source: FedEx Corporation. 

FedEx Corporation (NYSE: FDX) has had a tough 2015, trailing both the competition and broad market benchmarks. However, 2016 is set to be full of changes for this logistics-delivery business. But will they be enough to bring about FedEx Corporation's best year yet? Here's what you need to know.

Increasing e-commerce
This holiday season, FedEx reported that it plans to move more shipments than ever before -- a record-breaking 317 million packages between Black Friday and Christmas Eve. That's a 12.4% increase over last year's volumes, and is symbolic of a much larger trend: e-commerce is bigger than ever.

In 2015, FedEx Corporation put in a lot of preparation for increased e-commerce. It introduced dimensional pricing -- a first mover on this in front of competitor United Parcel Service (NYSE:UPS) -- and bought out reverse logistics company GENCO for $1.4 billion to improve its package-return systems.

Looking ahead, FedEx plans to spend $1.6 billion in capital expenditures for fiscal 2016, aimed at expanding FedEx Ground capacity. That's up from just $555 million for the ground segment in fiscal 2013, a year when both FedEx Corporation and United Parcel Services, were taken by e-commerce surprise during the holiday season, and failed to deliver some packages by Santa's deadline.

Expanding into Europe
The biggest FedEx news for 2016, if all goes as planned, will be its completed $4.9 billion acquisition of Netherlands-based logistics company TNT Express. The agreement recently passed regulatory reviews by the European Commission and U.S. Federal Trade Commission, and is set to go through by mid-2016.

If successful, TNT's European business will push FedEx past United Parcel Service's No. 2 position to sit comfortably behind Germany-based DHL. The buyout will also boost FedEx's revenue to near-UPS levels, allowing it to take advantage of similar economies of scale for the first time ever.

Same leader, same success?

Source: FedEx Corporation. 

When it comes to corporate management, FedEx Corporation investors should feel a bit on edge heading into 2016. Earlier this year, FedEx's board announced that it raised its director mandatory retirement age from 72 to 75. The move is meant to keep 71-year-old FedEx founder, Chairman, and CEO Fred Smith in the driver's seat for a few more years.

The party line on the decision, and the one that investors will be happiest to hear, is that FedEx needs Smith just a bit longer to smooth over its latest GENCO and TNT Express acquisitions. That may be true, but one can't help but consider another extended leadership decision that took place in 2015: Rwanda's vote to give slightly benevolent dictator President Paul Kagame the right to rule until 2034. If Kagame holds the reigns for that long, his 40-year tenure will fall shy of Smith's 48-year adventure.

Management transitions can introduce unwanted uncertainty for investors and their stocks, but continually extending commander-in-chief terms, whether it's for a country or a corporation, isn't necessarily good news for long-term performance.

The bottom line for investors
FedEx Corporation is already looking back on 2015 with eyes towards a (hopefully) brighter new year. It's chalking up its subpar performance during the past year as a necessary bump in its intensive preparations for an excellent 2016. But investors shouldn't bank on hope. 

FedEx has already revised down its fiscal 2016 expectations once, and the company will continue to face new types of competition in the year to come. Its e-commerce investments and European expansion will make 2016 a dynamic year to see how wide FedEx can spread its new wings -- but don't expect its stock to fly just yet. All in all, alot has to go right for 2016 to be FedEx's best year yet.