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FedEx says holiday rush has been ‘relatively similar’ to last year, as forecast sends shares lower

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Shares of FedEx Corp. dropped in after-hours trading Tuesday after the package-delivery giant trimmed its full-year sales forecast, amid continued concerns about subdued shipping demand through the peak holiday season.

FedEx
FDX,
-0.68%

said it expected a “low-single-digit percentage decline” in sales for its fiscal 2024, compared with a prior forecast for “approximately flat” sales growth. The company stuck with its per-share profit expectations.

Shares slid more than 9% after hours.

The after-hours slide came after FedEx’s aggressive cost-cutting drive — via staff cuts, fewer flights, a reorganization of its air network and a consolidation of its overall corporate structure — helped lift the stock through much of the year. Shares of FedEx were still up 59% year to date at the close of regular trading on Tuesday.

Chief Executive Raj Subramaniam said during the company’s earnings call that while he believed consumer spending patterns — on physical goods, or on things like services and experiences — had largely returned to pre-pandemic levels. But he said shipping demand had been hit by weaker global industrial production and businesses that have been cautious on stocking up on too much product amid concerns about the economy.

“For the rest of the fiscal year, we’re not assuming any kind of improvement in these trends,” he said. “Obviously if that changes, that’ll be a positive. We’ve said this over and over again over the last few quarters: We’re focused on the things that we can control.”

Brie Carere, FedEx’s chief customer officer, said that demand trends for this year’s holiday shipping season had been “relatively similar to last year” and “in-line with our expectations.” But analysts have worried about the effects of higher-priced basics on demand for holiday gifts.

Higher prices for things like groceries since last year, along with concerns about the economy, have restricted what shoppers can spend elsewhere. That trend has affected what products ultimately get shipped to consumers’ doorsteps.

Shipping volumes against that backdrop were mixed during FedEx’s fiscal second quarter. Within FedEx’s Ground business, where trucks deliver items in the U.S. and Canada, volumes rose. But they fell in its internationally-focused Express business, which ships goods via air routes.

The company reported second-fiscal-quarter net income of $900 million, or $3.55 a share, compared with $790 million, or $3.07 a share, in the same quarter last year. Adjusted for “business-optimization costs,” FedEx earned $3.99 a share.

Sales came in at $22.2 billion, down from $22.8 billion a year ago.

The numbers missed Wall Street’s estimates. Analysts polled by FactSet expected FedEx to report adjusted earnings per share of $4.19, on revenue of $22.36 billion.

The package deliverer also reported the results after tense labor negotiations at rival United Parcel Service Inc.
UPS,
+0.03%

and Yellow Corp.’s bankruptcy filing roiled the shipping industry this year. UPS and the Teamsters union agreed to higher pay and other benefits for the company’s 340,000-plus unionized workers over the summer.

The UPS deal could push up wages at FedEx. But FedEx is trying to cut $6 billion in costs by fiscal 2027.

Carere, during the call, said FedEx had held onto a “majority” of the business it grabbed from UPS and Yellow. But one analyst said there were signs UPS was trying harder to win that business back. And Subramaniam the the U.S. Postal Service had shifted more of its package shipments from air service to ground,

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