Markets FedEx Posts Higher 2Q Profit, Plans to Buy New Boeing Planes

Shipping giant FedEx (FDX: 82.94, +5.65, +7.31%), which is seen as a bellwether for the broader economy, revealed on Thursday a stronger-than-expected 76% surge in fiscal second-quarter profits amid solid demand and higher prices in ground shipping.

The Memphis-based company also disclosed plans to buy more than two dozen new 767-300F aircraft from aerospace leader Boeing (BA: 70.73, +0.79, +1.13%).

FedEx said it earned $497 million, or $1.57 a share, last quarter, compared with a profit of $283 million, or 89 cents a share, a year earlier. That beat Wall Street’s expectations for EPS of $1.52 and was toward the upper end of the company’s September guidance for EPS of $1.40 to $1.60.

Revenue climbed 9.9% to $10.59 billion, slightly missing estimates for $10.61 billion. Operating margin expanded to 7.4% from 4.9%.

Shares of FedEx climbed 4.17% to $80.51 ahead of the open amid enthusiasm for the results. Rival UPS (UPS: 71.99, +1.35, +1.91%) was up 1.93% to $72.00.

“Our improved performance was largely a result of effective yield management programs and strong demand for FedEx Home Delivery and FedEx SmartPost services,” CEO Fred Smith said in a statement. “With the healthy growth in online shopping this holiday season, demand is increasing for these residential delivery services.”

FedEx said revenue at its ground segment climbed 13% last quarter to $2.34 billion as average daily package volume increased 4% and revenue per package jumped 8% amid higher prices.

Revenue at FedEx Express was up 10% to $6.58 billion as domestic revenue per package rose 12%.

Looking ahead, FedEx projected EPS of $1.25 to $1.45 for the current quarter, which compares favorably with the Street’s view of $1.31. The company also backed its forecast for full-year profits of $6.25 to $6.75 a share.

FedEx didn’t’ disclose a price for its aircraft order, but said it agreed to buy 27 new 767-300F aircraft, with three arriving in fiscal 2014 and six per year in the following four fiscal years. FedEx said the aircraft will begin to replace its MD10 aircraft, some of which are more than 40 years old, in part because of a 30% increase in fuel efficiency they will provide.

At the same time, FedEx said it is delaying the delivery of 11 777F aircraft to “better balance air network capacity to demand,” particularly in Asia.