FedEx Earnings Signal a Changing World

FedEx stock reported sharply lower earnings, and the stock fell overnight

FedEx (NYSE:FDX) stock is on the investing menu today as the “disaster of the day” and it could take the whole market down with it. The shares are off almost $10 today, or over 5%, after announcing disappointing third-quarter results.

FDX: FedEx Earnings Signal a Changing WorldThe Memphis-based delivery company said it earned $739 million, $2.80 per share, on revenues of $17 billion, against earnings of $2.07 billion, $7.59 per share, and revenue of $16.5 billion a year ago.

CEO Frederick Smith didn’t try to sugarcoat it, calling the numbers “below our expectations.” He promised new investments to lower costs and return to earnings growth.

Analysts, however, were left scratching their heads. CNN blamed the Trump trade wars, quoting CFO Alan Graf about FedEx Express’ lower international revenue.

But there could be another explanation.

Growing Competition for FedEx Stock?

I’m a regular customer of Amazon.Com (NASDAQ:AMZN). So are many neighbors. In years past, I got packages from a mix of U.S. Postal Service employees (especially on Sunday), UPS (NYSE:UPS) trucks and FedEx, I’m now seeing white Amazon trucks every day. During the recent Super Bowl in Atlanta, Amazon offered a subtle reminder of this. It brought out a fleet of dark blue vans for delivery. After the game they went back to the plain white ones.

FedEx is also facing more competition from UPS, its long-time rival. Over the last year UPS stock is up while FDX has lost 28% of its value.

Smith himself said he saw “green sprouts” in the international market, although CNBC called the earnings a warning that global growth is slowing.

A closer look at the numbers showed a more complex picture.

Costs at FedEx Ground were up as the company launched six-day-a-week service and saw higher gas prices. FedEx International revenues were down, in part, due to weaker international currencies. Global profits were down on lower shipment weights and a customer preference for lower-profit services. Graf said the company is taking the usual responses to slowing business, buying out some employees, limiting hiring, and looking at other cost-cutting measures.

FDX Stock a Bargain?

Investors should be playing FedEx stock for its dividend, not capital gains. Over the last five years, that quarterly dividend has more than tripled, to 65 cents. Even with the latest miss, it’s still covered four times by earnings.

If you bought FedEx shares five years ago, when they were at about $135 each, you’re currently seeing a yield of 5.2% on that investment, dividing the annual dividend of $2.60 per share by its March 20 opening price. The stock’s trailing price-to-earnings multiple stands at just 9.4. The company’s market cap of $45 billion is around two-thirds of its expected 2019 revenue of $68 billion.

By these conventional measures FedEx is a bargain. It’s good for the dividend, even with earnings depressed. The company is still forecasting earnings of over $15 per year, with capital spending of $5.6 billion. Those forecasts assume steady U.S. growth and no further international slowdown.

The Bottom Line

When you are buying dividend stocks for retirement, you look for those covering their dividends with earnings and you buy on weakness, when the yield is highest. FedEx has offered a steady stream of dividends since 2002, and they were not even cut during the last recession.

For these investors, FedEx’s depressed price today is a real bargain.

For younger investors seeking fat capital gains, however, you might want to look elsewhere.

Dana Blankenhorn is a financial and technology journalist. He is the author of a new mystery thriller, The Reluctant Detective Finds Her Family, available now at the Amazon Kindle store. Write him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @danablankenhorn. As of this writing he owned shares in AMZN.

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