• ITVI.USA
    15,577.910
    -10.310
    -0.1%
  • OTRI.USA
    22.530
    -0.120
    -0.5%
  • OTVI.USA
    15,585.590
    -10.110
    -0.1%
  • TLT.USA
    2.770
    0.010
    0.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    3.390
    -0.060
    -1.7%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    2.840
    -0.080
    -2.7%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.510
    -0.070
    -4.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    3.290
    0.080
    2.5%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    1.980
    -0.060
    -2.9%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    3.900
    0.100
    2.6%
  • WAIT.USA
    124.000
    -3.000
    -2.4%
  • ITVI.USA
    15,577.910
    -10.310
    -0.1%
  • OTRI.USA
    22.530
    -0.120
    -0.5%
  • OTVI.USA
    15,585.590
    -10.110
    -0.1%
  • TLT.USA
    2.770
    0.010
    0.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    3.390
    -0.060
    -1.7%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    2.840
    -0.080
    -2.7%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.510
    -0.070
    -4.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    3.290
    0.080
    2.5%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    1.980
    -0.060
    -2.9%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    3.900
    0.100
    2.6%
  • WAIT.USA
    124.000
    -3.000
    -2.4%
Company earningsLast MileLess than TruckloadLogisticsNews

XPO executives see the future — and it’s bullish

Company waxes optimistic on earnings call, with CEO Jacobs being conspicuous by his silence

In some ways, the Thursday morning call between transport and logistics giant XPO Logistics Inc. (NYSE:XPO) and the analysts who cover it was a preview of coming attractions.

Coming off a strong fourth quarter, which included an all-time quarterly revenue record and an earnings-per-share beat of 52 cents, company executives waxed bullish on both the first quarter and the rest of the year. With COVID-19 cases and the corresponding concerns expected to wane through the year, and with macro factors blowing strongly outward, executives were as upbeat about the future as they’ve been in some time. That confidence was underscored by a forecast that 2021 adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) would rise between 24% and 29% over 2020 levels, and that free cash flow would come in between $600 million and $700 million, up from $554 million in 2020.

For example, the backlog of contract logistics remains “very strong,” said Matt Fassler, XPO’s chief strategy officer. XPO’s truckload brokerage business, which cranked on all cylinders last quarter, will be “spectacular” again during the first quarter, though not as off the charts as in the fourth quarter, said Fassler. With the right mix of headcount and technology now in place, the company expects a “sustained period of success” in this area, Fassler said.

XPO’s less-than-truckload operating ratio, a measure of revenues to expenses, is expected to drop by 200 basis points for 2021 after hitting a fourth-quarter record of 84.5%, Fassler said. The infusion of information technology applications is driving up efficiencies, and XPO is in the “early innings” of optimizing its pricing matrices on LTL traffic, Fassler said. The long-dormant U.S. industrial economy, which is the LTL unit’s bread and butter, is showing signs of stirring, Fassler said; tonnage per day in January was stronger than the average daily tonnage during the fourth quarter, he said.

Malcolm Wilson, the head of XPO’s European operation, said he sees solid growth for years to come as global businesses migrate to the company’s broad-based logistics portfolio to capitalize on improving global economic activity once the pandemic runs its course.

What was also interesting about the hourlong conversation was that Brad Jacobs, XPO’s founder, chairman and CEO, barely said a word. Jacobs, who in prior years would dominate the calls, made brief introductory remarks but didn’t answer any analysts’ questions, turning the call mostly over to Fassler and, to a lesser extent, Wilson.

Changes in a company’s analyst call hierarchy always have significance, and in this most pivotal year for XPO, perhaps Jacobs wanted to give others a chance at the microphone, Certainly, it was an opportunity to introduce Wilson, who will head up a new logistics company that will be spun off to shareholders in the second half of the year. Jacobs will serve as chairman and CEO of a separate transportation concern that includes less-than-truckload, brokerage, last mile, intermodal and expedited transport. 

The spin-off remains on track, Jacobs said. XPO is expected next quarter to file documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission that will shed more light on the transaction.

For now, XPO executives can bask in the glow of a strong fourth quarter, apparent solid momentum into 2021 and favorable analyst commentary. The company “offers compelling cyclical value” in its current pre-spin-off structure, said Bascome Majors, an analyst at Susquehanna Investment Group, in a Thursday note. Majors said that given the current climate and XPO’s positioning, the company’s 2021 EBITDA projections are “reasonable.”

Jason Seidl of Cowen & Co. said XPO “remains well positioned” due to growth in e-commerce where the company is the leader in last-mile delivery of heavy goods, strong customer reception to its technology initiatives and the planned spin-off. XPO continues to be Cowen’s top pick, and the firm’s $148-a-share 12-month price target is “under review,” Seidl said.

Todd Fowler of Key Banc Capital Markets said in an note that favorable fourth-quarter trends are likely sustainable and that the company’s guidance suggests positive performance across the enterprise and strong free cash flow expectations.

Thursday’s trading session, however, didn’t quite reflect analyst optimism. XPO shares fell 4% to $117.60 a share after being higher from shortly after Wednesday’s market close to Thursday’s opening bell.

Mark Solomon

Formerly the Executive Editor at DC Velocity, Mark Solomon joined FreightWaves as Managing Editor of Freight Markets. Solomon began his journalistic career in 1982 at Traffic World magazine, ran his own public relations firm (Media Based Solutions) from 1994 to 2008, and has been at DC Velocity since then. Over the course of his career, Solomon has covered nearly the whole gamut of the transportation and logistics industry, including trucking, railroads, maritime, 3PLs, and regulatory issues. Solomon witnessed and narrated the rise of Amazon and XPO Logistics and the shift of the U.S. Postal Service from a mail-focused service to parcel, as well as the exponential, e-commerce-driven growth of warehouse square footage and omnichannel fulfillment.

2 Comments

  1. Hello
    I have been reading articles from this site the past few days and i was hoping someone could help as i have a dumbass question, I’m trying to find list of all the forms or way i can or if i can invest into freight system. products goods and services etc. For instance, I have no idea and y ships or even transport truck companies that are on TSE/NYSE or Nasdaq. this is lack of knowledge that i would like to be a lot smarter in. i can see the $$$$$ this operation carries and can make, so if anyone could point me to direction or a site with names truck companies ships investments general, I be very appreciative. Retired military single dad teenagers, time on my hands and i really like to study everything that deems must know of the freight business etc. apologize if this isn’t the right place to write or ask for help on investment question. but If you could steer me to in way of what i need to be looking at, i be incredibly grateful.
    THANK-YOU GENTS
    MUCH APPRECIATION BE -SAFE HEATLH ETC CHEERS

    1. Great job guys and gals im conway/Xpo retiree during these questionable times it’s wonderful to see and hear a bunch of good news a super thank you guys and keep up the super good job

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