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XPO Logistics, Inc. (NYSE:XPO) Q1 2024 Earnings Call Transcript

XPO Logistics, Inc. (NYSE:XPO) Q1 2024 Earnings Call Transcript May 4, 2024

XPO Logistics, Inc. isn’t one of the 30 most popular stocks among hedge funds at the end of the third quarter (see the details here).

"(Transcript provided to Seeking Alpha by the company.)":

Mario Harik: Good morning, everyone. Thanks for joining our call. I'm here in Greenwich with Kyle Wismans, our Chief Financial Officer; and Ali Faghri, our Chief Strategy Officer. This morning we reported financial results that were well above expectations for revenue and earnings, in a soft market for freight transportation. It was a strong first quarter for us company-wide, reflecting the momentum we carried into 2024. We grew revenue year-over-year by 6% to $2 billion, and we improved our adjusted EBITDA by 37% to $288 million. Adjusted diluted EPS was 45% higher year-over-year at $0.81. As you saw in our results, our LTL 2.0 plan is firing on all cylinders. I want to frame my comments this morning around the four pillars of our plan and the tremendous progress we're making.

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I'll start with the pillar that is most important to our growth and profitability is to provide world class service to our customers. Our first quarter damage claims ratio continued to be among the best in the industry, at a company record of 0.3%. This was an improvement from 0.7% last year and from 1.2% when we launched LTL 2.0 just over two years ago. The underlying driver of this improvement has been a reduction of more than 70% in damage frequency. Another key service metric is on-time performance, which has now improved on a year-over-year basis for eight consecutive quarters. In short, we’re delivering meaningful service improvements, while moving more volume through our network, with a multi-year plan that balances operational excellence and investments in the network.

This includes the freight airbag systems we introduced in the second half of last year. That equipment is now installed in 75% of our service centers and we expect to complete the rollout by mid-year. The sites that have the airbag are seeing an improvement in damage frequency of greater than 20%. We’ve also recently updated our trailer loading procedures, which will continue to enhance our service quality over time. And as we in-source more miles from third-party carriers, we expect this to further reduce damages and improve on-time performance. We’ve made it clear to our customers and employees that service quality is our North Star, and we're well on our way to becoming the best-in-class LTL service provider. The second pillar of LTL 2.0 is to invest in our network.

Our business has historically generated a high return on invested capital. Since the launch of LTL 2.0, we've added over 12,000 trailers and 4,000 tractors to our fleet. This has allowed us to operate more efficiently and maintain strong network fluidity while in-sourcing more linehaul transportation. Over two-thirds of our 2024 CapEx is allocated for fleet. We added nearly 1,600 tractors in the first quarter, which brought down our average tractor age to 4.2 years from five years at the end of 2023. The new tractors are more efficient to operate, resulting in an improvement in our fleet maintenance cost. We also manufactured nearly 1,300 trailers in the quarter and we recently celebrated the 30th anniversary of our production facility in Arkansas.

We are the only U.S. freight transportation company to manufacture its own trailers, which puts us in a unique position to create capacity when our customers need it and we can do it with less capital. In terms of the 28 new service centers we acquired in December, we've now opened the first six on schedule in April, with another six planned for the second quarter. This is expanding our presence in growing freight markets like Nashville, Las Vegas and Houston. We plan to bring another dozen sites online by the end of this year and expect all 28 to be operational by early 2025. The third pillar of our plan is to drive above market yield growth. Yield is our single biggest opportunity for margin improvement and it's the highlight of our results this morning.

We grew yield excluding fuel by 9.8% year-over-year, which helped us deliver nearly 400 basis points of adjusted operating ratio improvement. Even with the gains we've made, we still have significant pricing opportunity that we can capture over time through three distinct levers by improving our service, growing our accessorial business, and expanding our local customer base. As we continue to improve our service, we're able to align our price with the value we deliver. This was reflected in our contract renewal pricing, where we achieved year-over-year growth in the high-single-digits for the third consecutive quarter. We also captured a double-digit increase in accessorial revenue as customers took advantage of our premium services. The fourth quarter rollout of our retail store offering went well, and we're developing a pipeline of customers specifically for this premium service.

In the first quarter, we introduced another new service called must-arrive-by-date, which is already gaining strong customer traction, and we're expanding our trade show and cross border services with the support of our newest service centers in Las Vegas and Nogales, Arizona. Lastly, we're continuing to have success in growing our local customer base. From a strategic perspective, local accounts are a higher margin business for us and we've expanded our local sales force to double down on this opportunity. In the first quarter, we earned 10% more shipments from local customers compared to the year ago. The final pillar of LTL 2.0 is cost efficiency, specifically with purchased transportation, variable costs, and overhead. In the first quarter, we reduced our purchased transportation cost by 21% year-over-year by covering more linehaul miles in-house while also paying lower contract rates for the miles we outsourced.

We ended the quarter with 18% of linehaul miles outsourced to third parties, which was a reduction of 370 basis points year-over-year. That puts us at the higher end of our target range for a 200 -- 400 basis points improvement this year. We expect to accelerate the number of miles we bring in-house in 2024, which will give us greater efficiency, flexibility and quality control. This will be supported by our initiatives to add driver teams in sleeper cab trucks for long distance hauls. We've onboarded over 100 of these teams and we're targeting a few hundred sleeper trucks to be in operation by the end of this year. Lastly, as our volume growth continues to outpace our headcount growth, our variable labor cost creates an ongoing margin opportunity.

We managed this effectively in the first quarter through the strong execution of our operational teams and our proprietary technology. Turning to Europe, our business continued to perform well in a soft macro environment. We increased both revenue and adjusted EBITDA versus the prior year, supported by a strong pricing environment and a robust sales pipeline. Our strongest year-over-year growth rates and adjusted EBITDA were in France and the UK, which are two key geographies for us. In France, the increase was in the mid-teens and in the UK, it was in the high-single-digits. Across the European business as a whole, our first quarter EBITDA was the highest it's been since the pandemic. In summary, we made significant progress in executing our strategy in the first quarter, while continuing to make investments in long-term growth.

A convoy of freight trucks on a highway, reflecting industrial freight transportation.
A convoy of freight trucks on a highway, reflecting industrial freight transportation.

Our service quality is at record levels, we're growing yield faster than the market, and we're driving cost efficiencies in areas that have the greatest impact on earnings. The initiatives we put in place are contributing to our strong operating momentum and cementing our foundation for future growth. We've come a long way under LTL 2.0 and we're still in the early stages of unlocking our full potential. Now, I'm going to hand the call over to Kyle to discuss the first quarter results. Kyle, over to you.

Kyle Wismans: Thank you, Mario. Good morning, everyone. I'll take you through our key financial results, balance sheet, and liquidity. It was a strong first quarter across the board. Revenue for the total company was $2 billion, up 6% year-over-year. This includes top-line growth of 9% in our LTL segment and 1% in Europe. Our LTL revenue, excluding fuel, was up a robust 12% year-over-year. On the cost side in LTL, salaries, wages and benefits were 10.5% higher in the quarter than a year ago. The increase primarily reflects wage and benefit inflation as well as incentive compensation aligned with the segment's strong first quarter performance. We mitigated these impacts by delivering our fifth straight quarterly increase in labor productivity on a year-over-year basis.

Our labor hours per day increased by 3.5% in the quarter, while our shipments per day increased by 4.7%. We were also more cost efficient with purchased transportation through a combination of in-sourcing and rate negotiation. Our expense for third-party carriers was down year-over-year by 21%, which equates to a $21 million savings in the quarter. Depreciation expense increased by 22% year-over-year, or $13 million, reflecting the investments we're making in the business. This continues to be our top priority for capital allocation in LTL. Our first quarter CapEx was primarily allocated to purchasing new tractors from the OEMs and manufacturing more trailers in-house. Next, I’ll add some detail to adjusted EBITDA starting with the company as a whole.

We generated adjusted EBITDA of $288 million in the quarter, which was up 37% from a year ago. Both our North American and European segments contributed to the increase. Our adjusted EBITDA margin was 14.2%, representing a year-over-year improvement of 320 basis points company-wide. We also continued to rationalize our corporate cost structure. Our first quarter corporate net expense was $5 million for a year-over-year savings of 44%. Looking at just the LTL segment, we grew our adjusted operating income by 50% year-over-year to $175 million and we grew adjusted EBITDA by 40% to $255 million. This reflects the combined impact of pricing gains, cost efficiencies, and increase in volume. In our European Transportation segment, adjusted EBITDA was $38 million for the quarter, up 3% over the prior year.

Company-wide, we reported operating income of $138 million for the quarter, up 138% year-over-year, and we grew net income from continuing operations by 294% to $67 million, representing diluted earnings per share of $0.56. On an adjusted basis, EPS increased by 45% year-over-year to $0.81. Lastly, we generated $145 million of cash flow from operating activities in the quarter and deployed $299 million of net CapEx. Moving to the balance sheet, we ended the quarter with $229 million of cash on hand. Combined with available capacity under our committed borrowing facility, this gave us $793 million of liquidity. We had no borrowings outstanding under our ABL facility at quarter end. Our net debt leverage ratio at the end of the quarter was 2.9x trailing 12 months adjusted EBITDA.

This was an improvement from 3x at year-end 2023 and we expect to further reduce our leverage this year. The ongoing investments we’re making are enhancing our earnings growth trajectory and will support our long-term goal of achieving an investment grade profile. Now, I’ll turn it over to Ali who will cover our operating results.

Ali Faghri: Thank you, Kyle. I'll start with our LTL segment, which reported another quarter of profitable growth with strong underlying trends. On a year-over-year basis, we increased our shipments per day by 4.7% in the quarter, led by 10% growth in our local sales channel. This resulted in growth in tonnage per day of 2.6% and our weight per shipment was down 1.9%, which was less of a decline than the prior quarter. On a year-over-year basis, this was our third consecutive quarter of improvement in weight per shipment. On a monthly basis, the trends across our operating metrics were broadly positive. Our January tonnage per day was down 1.1% year-over-year. February was up 3.5% and March was up 5.9%. Looking just at shipments per day, January was up 1.4% year-over-year.

February was up 5.8% and March was up 7.2%. In April, our preliminary tonnage per day was up 3.1% year-over-year, while our shipment count was up 4.8%. On a two-year stack basis, April shipments per day and tonnage per day accelerated versus the month of March. We also delivered another strong quarter of yield growth. We grew yield, excluding fuel, by a robust 9.8% compared with the prior year. While our improving weight per shipment was a modest mix headwind to yield, our revenue per shipment ex-fuel accelerated for the third consecutive quarter to a year-over-year increase of 7.9%. Importantly, our underlying pricing trends are strong as we continue to align our pricing with the better service and value-added offerings we provide. Our contract renewal pricing was up 8% in the quarter, compared with a year ago.

Turning to margin, our first quarter adjusted operating ratio was 85.7%, which was an improvement of 390 basis points year-over-year. We've now reported nearly 400 basis points of year-over-year margin expansion in each of two consecutive quarters and the current quarter is tracking for an improvement at the same level or better. Our strong margin performance was primarily driven by yield growth and bolstered by our cost initiatives and productivity gains. Sequentially, our adjusted OR improved by 80 basis points, which outperformed our expectations. Moving to our European business, we delivered year-over-year revenue growth despite ongoing softness in the macro environment. As with the prior quarter, our strong pricing outpaced inflation, volume improved month by month and turned positive on a year-over-year basis in March.

We also grew adjusted EBITDA versus the prior year even with fewer working days, reflecting disciplined cost control. The team continues to execute well and earn new business from high-caliber customers. This momentum is reflected in our sales pipeline, which has expanded to nearly $1.2 billion. This should continue to strengthen our position in key European geographies. I'll close with a summary of our strong start to the year, which lays the foundation for the significant margin improvement we expect in 2024. As you heard from us this morning, we're continuing to deliver record service levels, providing more value to our customers and earning higher returns. Our service improvements, combined with the momentum of our accessorial offering, drove another quarter of strong yield growth.

And we realized meaningful cost efficiencies through our linehaul in-sourcing initiative and labor productivity gains. In summary, our strategy is working. We're delivering strong revenue and earnings growth, and we're still in the early stages of realizing our margin expansion opportunity. Now, we'll take your questions. Operator, please open the line for Q&A.

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