No Surprises in J.B. Hunt Earnings

J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. (NASDAQ: JBHT) reported fiscal third-quarter results after markets closed today. For the quarter, the trucking and transport company posted diluted earnings per share (EPS) of $0.65 on revenues of $1.3 billion. In the same period a year ago, the company reported EPS of $0.57 on sales of $1.17 billion. Third-quarter results compare to the Thomson Reuters consensus estimates for EPS of $0.66 EPS and $1.28 billion in sales.

Excluding fuel surcharges, operating revenues increased by 10.5% year-over-year.

Revenue in the company's Intermodal segment rose 15% to $794 million, "primarily from the continued customer conversion of highway traffic to intermodal." Revenue per load was essentially flat compared with the same period a year ago. Operating income rose 25% year-over-year in the segment.

The company's improvement in its Intermodal segment was offset by revenue a decline in its Truck segment and growth of just 1% in its contract services business. Revenue per unit of measure fell in all segments, although the difference in the Intermodal segment was just $1 per truckload.

The company did not offer any further guidance in its published release. The consensus estimate for the fourth quarter calls for EPS of $0.70 on revenue of $1.32 billion. For the 2012 fiscal year, EPS is reckoned at $2.60 on revenue of $5.02 billion.

J.B. Hunt, like FedEx Corp. (NYSE: FDX) and other carriers, face rising operating costs and tighter margins. The company managed that pretty well. Hunt's gross operating margin in the third quarter was 10.3%, up slightly from 10.1% in the same period a year ago.

Hunt's shares are up about 4% in after-hours trading at $57.00 in a 52-week range is $38.13 to $61.18. Thomson Reuters had a consensus analyst price target of around $59.57 before today's report.

Paul Ausick

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