Growth in U.S. e-commerce has not been enough to offset a drop in International Priority package revenue at FedEx Express, higher costs at FedEx Ground and "business realignment costs" primarily associated with a U.S.-based voluntary employee buyout program. The 3PL has seen years of declining margins and several quarters of tepid revenue growth.
Executives on the company's Tuesday earnings call pointed to global trade as the major variable in the carrier's future growth equation.
"We’ve been very disappointed over the last few years with the assumptions that we made on the growth in international trade, particularly with the Trump administration," said CEO Fred Smith, adding that the U.S. has become a "protectionist country."
Adjusted margins were down 0.3% year-over-year for the full 2019 fiscal year (which ended May 31) while revenue increased 4.2%. The fourth quarter showed these trends more dramatically with a 1% decrease in adjusted margins and 2.9% revenue growth year-over-year.
While FedEx can't change the trade environment, the 3PL has a plan to change its financial story.
Executives outlined initiatives they believe will have a cumulative positive effect on the balance sheet — just not until FY2021, according to Smith. These include:
- The decision to drop Amazon business with FedEx Express.
- After-hours pickups — now in place for Rent the Runway and Target.
- 7-day per week deliveries starting next year.
- Increased large package capabilities — the 3PL pledged to have a large package operation in 40 FedEx Ground facilities by this peak season.
- Integrating FedEx SmartPost into Ground service.
- Completing the integration of FedEx's European acquisition TNT.
Ending its relationship with Amazon, while expected to have long-term benefits, will also be a "near-term headwind," which will last until FY2021, according to CFO Alan Graf.
"Our performance has been negatively affected by continued weakness in global trade and industrial production, as well as the near-term impact of certain strategic decisions we have made to sustain our leading position in a changing marketplace," Graf said on the earnings call.
As FedEx's various service shifts (with more to come in the near-term) will take time to make their mark on the balance sheet, Graf emphasized global trade, not competition, could throw off this plan.
"I know we can do it. I know we will do it, I’m disappointed that we haven't done it, but I believe strongly that when we get the interoperability up and we get any kind of global trade environment that's reasonable, that we will be successful with our international Express," said Graf.