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Werner 3Q net falls on weak demand, higher fuel

OMAHA, Neb. -- Trucking and logistics company Werner Enterprises Inc. said on Wednesday that its third-quarter net income fell 15 percent because of weak demand for freight hauling and rising fuel prices.

The company earned $25.1 million, or 34 cents per share, for the quarter that ended Sept. 30. That was down from $29.6 million, or 40 cents per share, for the same period last year.

Revenue fell 1 percent to $506.5 million, from $509.6 million a year ago.

Analysts surveyed by FactSet, on average, were expecting a profit of 35 cents per share on revenue of $522.8 million.

Werner said freight demand in the third quarter usually improves seasonally from mid-August through mid-September, but that didn't happen this year.

"Our customers generally chose to keep their inventory levels leaner in a market with economic and political uncertainty," the company said in a prepared statement. It said freight trends so far for October have been running below year-ago levels.

Because demand was weak, spot prices fell, too.

Fuel expenses fell 4.4 percent, but the fuel surcharges that are supposed to cover its diesel bill fell 4.8 percent. So even its smaller fuel bill still ate into profits.

It ended the quarter with 7,110 trucks, down by 215 from the end of the second quarter. It said the number of trucks declined as it exited some less-profitable business.

Werner Enterprises shares had gained 10 cents to close at $23.02 before the results were released. They rose another penny in aftermarket trading.