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联邦快递营收疲软,给全球经济发出了警兆

Kevin Kelleher 2019年09月22日

联邦快递CEO施伟德表示:“我们的业绩继续受到全球宏观环境疲软的负面影响,其主要因素是贸易纠纷和政策的不确定性。”

如果说联邦快递对于全球经济来说,就像一只用来检测矿井里的空气能否呼吸的金丝雀,那么这只金丝雀最近可是有点瘦了。

最近发布的联邦快递第一财务季度(截止到8月31日)报表显示,该公司的营业收入下滑至171亿美元。本周二收盘后,联邦快递的股价下跌了10%左右,每股净利润也由去年同期的3.10美元下滑至2.84美元。辉盛公司(FactSet)的数据显示,此前分析师对联邦快递每股利润的预期是3.15美元。

对此,联邦快递CEO施伟德表示:“我们的业绩继续受到全球宏观环境疲软的负面影响,其主要因素是贸易纠纷和政策的不确定性。”更糟糕的是,联邦快递已经将利润预期从华尔街普遍认可的14.62美元每股,下调至11到13美元每股。

随着全球经济的滑坡,很多企业都在准备迎接增长乏力的局面。不过联邦快递的业绩疲软,是一个尤为值得担忧的现象。原因是一直以来,联邦快递的业绩都被外界看作是全球商业活动的“天气预报”。

亚利桑那州立大学物流与供应链管理学教授戴尔·罗杰斯指出:“有人说经济还在增长,他们的依据是GDP的数值。但是GDP作为一个指标只能起到‘后视镜’的作用。它只会告诉你已经发生的事情。而联邦快递则是一个‘风向标’,它能告诉你即将发生的事情。”

与UPS和美国邮政不同的是,联邦快递并不高度依赖直接面向个人消费者的快递业务,个人业务大约只占了联邦快递业务量的20%左右。其余的80%,则主要依赖商业“食物链”的上游环节,比如从供应商到制造商之间的物流。换句话说,早在消费者下单购买这些成品商品之前,联邦快递就已经把钱赚了。罗杰斯认为,联邦快递的不景气,预示着经济有可能在未来9到12个月里出现问题。

上个月,联邦快递还终止了与亚马逊的货运合同,这也给它的业绩造成了一些影响,但影响相对不大。联邦快递还向投资者公布了来自乐天情报(Rakuten Intelligence)的一张图表,上面显示,过去几年,它的所谓“最后一英里”业务(也就是直接配送至消费者手中的包裹)始终稳定地保持在5%以下,远低于UPS和美国邮政的比例,这表明亚马逊虽然在雄心勃勃地发展自己的快递业务,但这并不会给联邦快递造成太大损失。

在一次讨论营收问题的电话会议上,联邦快递的高管明确表示,对该公司财务业影响最大的因素的是全球经济局势,特别是贸易战和一些国家的衰退。联邦快递财务总监艾伦·格拉夫表示,联邦快递下调预期的“绝大部分原因,与我们没有预料到的宏观环境因素有关。”他还表示,联邦快递正在采取措施减少运力,包括退役数十架货机等。

当被问到,为什么中美贸易战打了这么久,联邦快递才开始削减运力时,施伟德表示:“去年秋天,我们是第一个喊出这个口号的人。我记得很清楚。我的意思是,我们是最早预言了这种情况的人。”今年早些时候,中美之间一度有望达成新的贸易协定,这一期望导致很多人出现了“极大的兴奋”,然而最终中美谈判还是破裂了,美国再次祭起了关税大棒。贸易战打到这里,作为“吃瓜群众”的其他经济体也感到了一丝寒意,其中就包括联邦快递的业务比较活跃的一些欧洲国家。

虽然联邦快递已经通过削减成本做出了反应,不过施伟德指出,其他一些公司还在否认事实。他表示:“我每天都看商业新闻,我得告诉你们,我认为相对于现在的全球经济形势来说,媒体上的很多言论关于美国消费者和美国经济的言论,都属于在自己给自己壮胆。”

罗杰斯表示,联邦快递业绩疲软的情况,也与他正在追踪的物流经理人指数中的其他一些重要指标吻合,比如运输价格和仓储能力等一些指标,有的增长已经放缓,有的较上年有所下降。全球航运巨头马士基集团也预警称,贸易战已经导致了全球海运的增长放缓。

目前,全球最关注的就是中美之间的贸易战了。但是2019年,还有一些国家之间的贸易纠纷也起了火上浇油的作用。比如日本和韩国就贸易问题斗得不可开交,英国脱欧大戏则很有可能威胁英国乃至整个欧盟的经济。

罗杰斯表示:“即使没有贸易战,我们也会看到增长形势的变化,不过贸易战严重扩大了它的规模。这不光是美国总统特朗普一个人的问题,而是全球的一些深层矛盾开始显现了出来。特朗普只是这样一个时代的报信者,是这些矛盾的反映,但并不是全部原因。”(财富中文网)

译者:朴成奎

If shipping giant FedEx is often regarded as a canary in the global economy coal mine, this canary is looking a little peaked.

FedEx shares tumbled roughly 10% after Tuesday's market close after the company said revenues in its first fiscal quarter ended Aug. 31 slipped to $17.1 billion, while its net profit fell to $2.84 a share from $3.10 a share a year earlier. Analysts had forecast earnings of $3.15 a share, according to FactSet.

"Our performance continues to be negatively impacted by a weakening global macro environment driven by increasing trade tensions and policy uncertainty," said CEO Fred Smith. Even worse, FedEx slashed its full-year profit forecast to between $11 a share and $13 a share, down from Wall Street's consensus forecast of $14.62 a share.

With global economies sagging, lots of companies are bracing for weaker growth. But FedEx's disappointing earnings report is especially worrisome for one key reason: It's widely seen as an early warning system for global commerce.

"I hear people saying the economy is growing because they are looking at the gross domestic product," says Dale Rogers, a professor of logistics and supply chain management at Arizona State University. "But GDP is a rear-view mirror of an indicator. It tells you what's already happened. FedEx is a bellwether because it tells you what's going to happen."

Unlike UPS or the U.S. Postal Service, FedEx isn't highly dependent on shipments to consumers, which make up about 20% of FedEx's business. The rest relies further up the business food chain: Shipments from suppliers to manufacturers, for example. In other words, long before consumers even have a chance to buy those manufactured goods. What happens to FedEx augurs what could happen to the economy about 9-to-12 months down the road, Rogers says.

FedEx was also hurt by its move last month to end its delivery contract with Amazon, although the damage from that move was relatively modest. FedEx shared with investors a chart from Rakuten Intelligence that showed its share of the last-mile shipments (that is, delivery to consumers) has steadily held below 5% for the past few years, far below the shares of UPS and the USPS, indicating it's insulated from Amazon's ambitious plans to deliver its own packages.

Instead, in a conference call discussing earnings, FedEx executives made it clear the biggest impact weighing on its financial performance was a global economy stymied by a trade war and a recession in some countries. CFO Alan Graf said the "vast majority" of the reduction in FedEx's guidance was "associated with the macroeconomic conditions that we did not expect." Smith added that the company is also taking steps to reduce capacity, including retiring several dozen aircraft.

Asked why FedEx didn't start cutting capacity until long after the U.S.-China trade war began, Smith said, "Last fall, we were the first people to call this out. And I remember very vividly. I mean, we are the leading prognosticator of this." Early this year, however, hope for an imminent trade deal led to a "tremendous amount of euphoria" before talks collapsed into new rounds of tariffs later on. That sent a chill to other economies, such as those in Europe, where FedEx is active.

And while FedEx is now reacting by cutting costs, Smith indicated that others remain in a sort of denial. "I watch the business press every day and I have to tell you, I think there's a lot of whistling past the graveyard about the U.S. consumer and the U.S. economy versus what's going on globally," Smith said.

Rogers says the weakness in FedEx's numbers echoes other leading indicators he helps to track in the Logistics Managers Index, such as transportation prices and warehouse capacity, which are slowing, if not down from last year. Global shipping giant AP Moller-Maersk has also warned that trade wars are slowing global shipments.

The ongoing trade war between U.S. and China may stand at center stage right now, but other trade disputes are adding to a broader trend of fraying trade alliances in 2019. Japan and South Korea are locked in their own bitter trade war, while the Brexit drama is threatening to hurt economies in the U.K. and the European Union alike.

"Even without the trade war, we'd be seeing a change in growth. but the trade war has tipped the scale," Rogers says. "It's not just President Trump. There are underlying tensions that are starting to come to the surface around the world. Trump is the messenger of the time. He's the reflection, but not the complete cause of it."

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