Hard Hits

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What’s going on?

FedEx reported mixed quarterly results late last week, but its biggest rival came out looking solid, strong, and ready for round two.

What does this mean?

There’s still a shortage of shipping containers for sea shipments, so more customers resorted to sending packages by air freight last quarter. That suited FedEx just fine: air-based shipping makes up about half of its sales, so the boost – and a bump in the prices it charges – helped it hoist its total revenue by a better-than-expected 10% last quarter from the same time the year before.

But business wasn’t quite so good on the ground: the surge in Omicron cases caused problems for FedEx’s land-based shipping business, so the company made fewer deliveries than expected overall. On top of that, FedEx was grappling with higher expenses due to the labor shortage and rising fuel costs. The company’s profit, then, grew a worse-than-expected 25% last quarter, spurring investors to send its shares down after the news.

Why should I care?

For markets: UPS is cruising.

FedEx might have more costs up ahead: just last week a chunk of its delivery contractors signed a petition asking for a pay bump. That’s something its rival UPS doesn’t need to worry about: it already pays its workers better than a lot of competing companies that have struggled to hire and keep workers. That’s kept UPS mostly sheltered from the labor shortage, which might be why its stock has outperformed FedEx’s by 17% so far this year.

The bigger picture: Amazon’s ready to fight.

There’s another kid on the delivery block: Spire Aviation released data showing that Amazon Air – Amazon’s cargo airline – flew 35% more flights last year than last, much higher growth than FedEx or UPS could manage. Plus, it has plans to expand even more this year, which could see it meet its goal to deliver more packages than UPS and FedEx in the US this year.

Originally Posted March 18, 2022 – Hard Hits

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