Rebound in Asian cargo buoys US shippers

HK handler posts 5.9 per cent surge in exports, lifting hopes for shares of Expeditors and FedEx

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 January, 2013, 5:12am

A pickup in air cargo shipments from Asia may benefit shares of Expeditors International and FedEx as global economic growth improves.

Exports at Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminals grew 5.9 per cent last month from a year earlier, following an 8.5 per cent increase in November, based on data from the biggest handler in the world's busiest freight airport.

The recent gains came after shipments had contracted by an average 4.2 per cent in the 24 months to October.

The rise in this gauge of shipments from Asia was encouraging for Expeditors, with 2011 revenue of US$2.9 billion from airfreight services, and FedEx, said David Ross, a transport analyst at Stifel Nicolaus. These exports - particularly high-technology shipments - were "part of the equation" that boosted earnings for those companies.

"It doesn't take much of an uptick in demand in that market to have shippers scrambling for capacity," Ross said.

While Expeditors had missed analysts' earnings estimates for the past four quarters, it might be "nearing a beatable quarter" this year, he said.

The company is scheduled to report fourth-quarter results on February 26.

Exports from Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminals have a "strong correlation" with annual growth in airfreight revenue at Expeditors and yearly gains in the average daily weight of FedEx's international priority freight, according to Peter Nesvold, an analyst in New York at Jefferies & Co.

Their earnings were sensitive to changes in such shipments because margins were high, Nesvold said.

When FedEx reported fiscal second-quarter results, the Asia-Pacific airfreight market was doing "quite well", David Bronczek, the president and chief executive of FedEx Express, said last month. "We are actually seeing some positive trends from our key customers in our market segment."

The company is scheduled to report fiscal third-quarter results on March 20.

The shares of companies in this industry had "done pretty well" since mid-November with "less nervousness" about a worldwide economic slowdown, said Frederic Dickson, the chief investment strategist at DA Davidson & Co.

Even signs of a "little bit of stabilisation in Europe" and increased exports from China could be met with a big price reaction, Dickson said.