FedEx shares plunge 10% as company cuts forecast, warning of economic slowdown

Key Points
  • FedEx's stock is on pace for its worst day since December 2008 since the company lowered its forecast for full-year earnings because of the decline in global trade.
  • Chairman and CEO Frederick Smith concluded the call by saying "most of the issues that we're dealing with today are induced by bad political choices," naming Brexit and U.S. tariffs as headwinds.
  • The logistics company also announced a plan to cut costs that includes buyouts for U.S. employees and limiting hiring.
A FedEx employee loads up deliveries in San Francisco.
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Shares of FedEx are on pace for their worst day since December 2008, plunging 10 percent Wednesday after the company lowered its fiscal 2019 earnings outlook and announced it would cut costs because of a slowdown in the global economy.

Policy decisions and global uncertainty have put pressure on trade, hurting the logistics company's expansion of its international business, FedEx Chairman and CEO Frederick Smith said Tuesday.

"And I'll just conclude by saying most of the issues that we're dealing with today are induced by bad political choices, making a bad decision about a new tax, creating tremendously difficult situation with Brexit, the immigration crisis in Germany, the mercantilism and state-owned enterprises in China, the tariffs that the United States put in unilaterally," Smith said during a conference call with analysts.

Smith's comments on macroeconomic conditions have also sent its U.S.-based competitors' stock down. Shares of rival UPS tumbled nearly 4 percent Wednesday morning, hitting a 52-week low, while XPO Logistics stock dipped 1 percent before paring losses. Recently the stock was trading up 4 percent. German competitor DHL's parent company, Deutsche Post, saw its shares rise 3 percent, likely on the news of FedEx's disappointing European business, before reversing that course. The shares are now down more than 3 percent.

The decline in FedEx's stock Wednesday adds to a 33 percent drop it has seen since the start of the year, bringing its market value to $44.6 billion. The stock is now on pace for its worst year since 1987 and worst month since 1978.

"While we believe a not insignificant portion of the guide down is due to TNT integration challenges, the severity of the F2H guidance cut (more than half from macros issues) is a concerning indicator of global growth," Citigroup analyst Christian Wetherbee said in a note, adding that shares of other logistics companies would also be under pressure.

FedEx acquired TNT Express in 2016 as part of its plan to expand its road and air networks in Europe and has been integrating these operations. But economic conditions are not in favor for its European expansion. While FedEx said it believes the U.S. economy is solid, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Rajesh Subramaniam told analysts that it looks like the peak for global economic growth has already passed.

Analysts surveyed by Refinitiv were expecting the logistics company to announce full-year earnings of $17.33 per share. Instead, FedEx said it expected to earn between $15.50 and $16.60 per share, down from $17.20 to $17.80 per share.

The company also said it would not be providing its forecasts for revenue growth and operating margin for the year.

Additionally, FedEx announced plans to slash costs to make up for weakness in its international business. It will implement a voluntary buyout program for U.S. employees and limit hiring. It is also considering buyouts for international employees. The company plans to reduce discretionary spending and capacity for its international network.

FedEx otherwise beat analysts' expectations for both earnings and revenue in the fiscal second quarter. The company reported earnings of $4.03 per share, topping estimates of $3.94. Wall Street also expected revenue of $17.75 billion, while FedEx reported $17.8 billion in sales for the quarter.