Buy FedEx for the long haul because of 'generational shift' to e-commerce, Barclays says

  • FedEx is positioned well to benefit from "a generational shift to ecommerce shipments," Barclays analyst Brandon Oglenski writes.
  • The global package company is Barclays' top pick among transportation companies.
  • There is "plenty of upside potential in FedEx" as it closes the gap on UPS, Oglenski says.
An employee sorts packages inside the FedEx distribution hub at Los Angeles International Airport.
Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images
An employee sorts packages inside the FedEx distribution hub at Los Angeles International Airport.

Delivering packages by rocket and developments in blockchain technology may be the future of shipping, but the latest bullish case for FedEx looks at a different industry transformation: e-commerce.

"A generational shift to ecommerce shipments, solid global trade prospects, management's incremental focus on improving returns and a cheap valuation make FedEx shares a compelling opportunity," Barclays transportation analyst Brandon Oglenski wrote in a note Thursday.

FedEx is no "unicorn stock," Oglenski said, but it is the firm's top pick when "left choosing between less than ideal outcomes" among transportation companies. Barclays sees FedEx stock gaining 20 percent from Wednesday's close at $225.93.

"A solid backdrop for global transportation demand and greater focus on properly pricing the robust but less efficient ecommerce growth should help assuage many market fears, leaving plenty of upside potential in FedEx," Oglenski wrote.

Despite multiple references to e-commerce, one name was absent throughout Oglenski's note: Amazon.com. Shares of both FedEx and United Parcel Service dipped in October when reports surfaced that Amazon is trying a new delivery program called "Seller Flex," in which the company will pick up packages from third parties selling on its platform and deliver the products to consumers.

Amazon said in a statement that it plans to continue using its current delivery partners. Morningstar equity analyst Keith Schoonmaker told CNBC that even if Amazon gets into delivering packages itself, it won't hurt logistics companies as much as investors first thought.

Oglenski also sees FedEx closing another important gap on UPS in how much it earns per package.

FedEx had been making progress until June, when subsidiary TNT Express suffered a cyberattack disrupting operations and communications. Barclays said it expects FedEx to reverse the recent decline caused by that attack to make up lost ground on UPS.