FedEx Posts Higher Profit, Raises Outlook

FedEx Corp. (FDX), the world's top air-express shipper, Thursday said quarterly profit nearly quadrupled on strength in its international, ground and freight businesses, and the company raised its full-year earnings forecast.

But shares of FedEx, which are up 47 percent so far this year, fell nearly 3percent, or $2.40 to $96.35. One of the few downsides analysts pointed to was disappointing overall operating margin, in part from the recent acquisition of Kinko's (search) printing business. They also noted the stock's recent run-up to date.

"Revenue was better than what we were looking for. Operating margin was a bit less-than-expected, but that looks like a result of FedEx/Kinko's," AG Edwards analyst Donald Broughton said.

Net earnings rose to $354 million, or $1.15 a share, in the fiscal second quarter ended Nov. 30, from $91 million, or 30 cents a share, a year earlier.

Last month FedEx forecast $1.10 to $1.20 a share, including a charge of 10 cents a share from a settlement with the Department of Transportation (search).

FedEx, considered a good gauge of economic health because it moves a range of goods from raw materials to finished goods, said revenue grew 24 percent, to $7.33 billion.

Broughton, who has a hold on FedEx due to valuation, said he has expected FedEx Kinko's, the division created by FedEx's purchase of Kinko's earlier this year, to be a drag on earnings for now.

"I watched them turn (around) ground and freight after their last two big acquisitions. I have confidence they can do it eventually but I'd like to hear aplan (for the business)," Broughton said.

Analysts were encouraged by FedEx's earnings outlook.

For the third quarter, FedEx said it expects earnings of 90 cents to $1 a share. It raised its full-year earnings outlook to $4.60 to $4.70 a share, up from a previous forecast of $4.40 to $4.60.

"I was a little surprised, positively so, that third-quarter guidance is what it is," said Arthur Hatfield, industrial transportation analyst at Morgan Keegan.

Memphis, Tenn.-based FedEx also sounded an upbeat note about its future growth prospects.

"Global and U.S. economic conditions remain favorable, and businesses are replenishing inventories and investing at a healthy pace," Chairman, President and Chief Executive Fred Smith said in a statement.

"The demand for FedEx services is strong and we are highly optimistic about our growth and profitability during the second half of our fiscal year."

Shares of FedEx fell 1.87 percent to $96.90 on the Inet electronic brokeragesystem. The stock has climbed 47 percent so far this year, outperforming the DowJones Transportation index (search), which has risen nearly 27 percent.