FedEx Corp. on Thursday cut its earnings expectations for the fiscal year ending in May due to slowing global economic growth. But, like rival UPS, it's not ready to project another recession.
The outlook from the world's second biggest package delivery company comes a day after the Federal Reserve gave a gloomy forecast for the U.S. economy. FedEx shares fell more than 8 percent in morning trading, contributing to a broader market sell-off. The shares had already lost about a quarter of its value since FedEx last reported earnings in June.
The Memphis, Tenn., company said the biggest factor dragging on global growth is lower consumer demand for technology and electronics products from Asia. FedEx's larger rival United Parcel Service Inc. also said last week that growth is slowing around the globe, while stopping short of forecasting another recession.
"Our customers' hair is not on fire. They're just saying we're taking it steady as she goes. It just feels completely different than it did back in `08," Chief Financial Officer Alan Graf said in a conference call with analysts.
FedEx now expects to earn between $6.25 and $6.75 per share for fiscal 2012, compared with a previous estimate of $6.35 to $6.85 per share. Analysts expect $6.39 per share, according to FactSet Research.
For the fiscal first quarter that ended in August, FedEx says an increase in deliveries by truck offset a drop-off in shipments by air. Net income rose 22 percent to $464 million or $1.46 per share in the three-month period, compared with $380 million, or $1.20 per share, a year earlier. Revenue rose 11 percent to $10.52 billion.
Analysts expected a profit of $1.45 per share on revenue of $10.32 billion.
Its shares fell $5.86, or 8.1 percent, to $66.64 by midmorning after falling to a 52-week low of $64.55 earlier in the session.
Express shipments slowed most notably from China, where growth had been robust. FedEx said the slowdown in that division outpaced its ability to cut costs, which it said it's doing aggressively to balance demand. As a result, the Express division's operating income fell 19 percent, even as revenue rose 12 percent. Average daily express volume in the U.S. fell 3 percent. But revenue per package rose 13 percent as packages weighed more on average and FedEx tacked on higher fuel surcharges.
Operating income in FedEx's ground segment leaped 42 percent to $407 million. Revenue rose 16 percent to $2.28 billion. Average daily package volume grew 5 percent driven by an increase in shipments between businesses and FedEx home delivery service. International priority shipments — the speediest and most expensive shipping option — fell an average of 4 percent per day.
FedEx's freight segment, which hauls heavier shipments like refrigerators and car parts, posted an operating profit of $42 million compared with a loss of $16 million a year earlier. Revenue rose 6 percent.
When consumers and businesses are concerned about the strength of the economy, they tend to choose slower shipping options — like switching from overnight express service to slower ground shipping — to save money. It's the same move many made during the recession.
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