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XPO finally takes a bite of Apple

XPO finally takes a bite of Apple

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XPO Logistics Inc. (NYSE:XPO) said Tuesday that it will build a 1 million-square-foot distribution center for Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) in the small Indiana town of Clayton that will support Apple’s direct-to-consumer distribution and delivery strategy.

XPO’s first-ever contract with the technology titan was part of $4 billion in done deals negotiated by the company’s logistics unit since the start of the year. Included in the basket was an 11-year, $1.2 billion deal with an existing customer that XPO would not identify. The contract is the largest in XPO’s 10-year history.

The deal with Apple was reached during the first quarter, according to Joseph Checkler, an XPO spokesman. XPO has begun the hiring process at the facility, and it is expected to open in the next few months, Checkler said. XPO will not provide deliveries for Apple under the contract, Checkler said. He declined comment on whether the relationship will deepen beyond the announced transaction.

The alliance is a shot in the arm for Clayton, a town with a population of less than 1,100, according to 2019 Census Bureau estimates. Most relevant for the companies, however, is that Interstate 70 is just six miles to the south, giving Apple, XPO and carriers easy access to the interstate network.

Apple, which is consistently ranked at or near the top of corporate supply chain performers, is in the process of tweaking its distribution infrastructure. Last October, the company said it would begin shipping devices from its more than 300 U.S. and Canadian stores to customers within 100 miles of a store, turning its store network into de facto fulfillment centers. Historically, Apple has shipped hardware products directly from China or from its U.S. warehouses. The objective is to expedite deliveries to consumers, especially those who still may be reluctant to visit stores because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The news comes as XPO posted first-quarter results late Monday that exceeded analysts already-elevated expectations. XPO Logistics Inc. (NYSE:XPO) posted the highest quarterly revenue in its history at $4.77 billion. It also posted first-quarter records for net income at $115 million, more than quintupling first-quarter 2020 results, and for adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) at $443 million, compared with $333 million in the year-earlier period.

On an adjusted and diluted basis, XPO posted earnings per share of $1.46, compared with 69 cents per share in the 2020 period. Analysts’ estimates ranged from 93 cents to 98 cents per share.

Based on what Chairman and CEO Brad Jacobs said were increasingly bullish outlooks for 2021 for its customer base, XPO revised its earnings guidance for the year. It hiked its adjusted EBITDA to a range of $1.825 billion to $1.875 billion from $1.72 billion to $1.8 billion. The revised range reflects a 31% year-on-year adjusted EBITDA increase, with the gains split almost evenly between its transportation and logistics segments.

Should XPO’s 2021 earnings per share settle at the midpoint of its revised guidance, its 2021 EBITDA will close at 109% above 2020 levels, executives said. “We are in the early innings of margin improvement,” Jacobs said in prepared remarks before handing over nearly the rest of the call — including the analyst question-and-answer session — to Matt Fassler, XPO’s chief strategy officer.

Brokerage cooked with gas in the quarter, with revenue up 83% year-over-year and net revenue — revenue minus transportation expenses — soaring 132%. North American LTL revenue rose to $976 million from $910 million. The unit’s operating ratio, the ratio of revenues to expenses, came in at 84.3%, a 220-basis-point improvement year-over-year. Daily shipment count rose 2.4% year-on-year, tonnage increased 3.7% and yield, excluding fuel costs, rose 4.2%. Company executives hailed the LTL results as the best quarter for the business since XPO entered it in late 2015 with its $3 billion acquisition of Con-way Inc.

The company did not start feeling the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic until the second half of March 2020. As a result, the second-quarter 2021 results will result in relatively easy comparables because business nosedived as the pandemic spread, government restrictions took hold and the industrial economy that LTL in particular is so heavily leveraged to collapsed.

Fassler said the unit’s momentum will continue into the second quarter as business-to-business (B2B) volumes, which began turning up in March after nearly two years of weakness, gather strength. Fassler played close to the vest on specific projections, saying LTL pricing is headed in the right direction without disclosing percentages, and avoiding an analyst’s query as to whether LTL could hit operating ratios in the mid-70s within three to five years. He reaffirmed the company’s belief that LTL will generate $1 billion in full-year EBITDA by 2022.

The company’s logistics division will be spun off in the second half of the year into a publicly traded entity called GXO Logistics Inc. Executives said they expect GXO to achieve investment-grade status on day one, affording it enhanced financial flexibility right from the start.

Analysts who’ve been on the XPO bandwagon for some time saw no reason to get off. Todd Fowler of KeyBanc Capital Markets held an overweight position with a price target of $150 a share, saying the results beat his estimates. Jason Seidl of Cowen & Co. continued to rate XPO his top pick with a $157-per-share price target. Bascome Majors of Susquehanna Financial Group advised committing new money to XPO shares, with a target price range of $154 to $161 a share.

XPO shares closed fractionally higher on Tuesday at $141.52 per share. Shares are up nearly 19% year-to-date and nearly 122% over the past 52 weeks.


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4 May 2021, 23:31