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May 1, 2019 1:30 PM, EDT

C.H. Robinson Beats Wall Street Expectations With 1Q Earnings

C.H. Robinson sign C.H. Robinson

Freight broker and produce distributor C.H. Robinson Worldwide beat Wall Street profit expectations, even as it saw first-quarter total revenue decline 4.4% to $3.75 billion compared with $3.92 billion in the first quarter of 2018.

The Eden Prairie, Minn.-based company on April 30 posted net income of nearly $161.8 million, or $1.16 a share, in the three months ended March 31, compared with net income of $142.3 million, or $1.01 a share, in the same period a year ago.

According to Barchart, Wall Street analysts had expected C.H. Robinson to post a price of $1.13 a share.

C.H. Robinson CEO John Wiehoff

Wiehoff

“During the first quarter, we achieved high single-digit revenue growth and double-digit growth in both operating income and earnings per share,” said outgoing CEO John Wiehoff. Chief Operating Officer Bob Biesterfeld will become CEO on May 9 through a planned succession. Wiehoff has been in the job for 17 years and will remain board chairman.

Breaking down results by division, the North American surface transportation business generated operating income of $211.2 million in the first quarter, a gain of 17.6% from $179.6 million in the year-ago period. Net revenue increased 11%, to $486.5 million from $438.4 million in 2018. However, total revenue declined 3.8%, to $2.79 billion from $2.9 billion in 2018.

The company cited what it called “decreased pricing” for the drop in revenue, and also its operating expenses increased by 6.4% due to increased cash compensation.

Bob Biesterfield

Biesterfeld

Global forwarding generated operating income of $14.2 million in the first quarter of 2019, an increase of 72.8% from $8.2 million in 2018. Net revenue increased 3.4%, to $127.2 million from $123 million, but total revenue fell 2.9%, to $537.5 million from $553.7 million. The company cited lower pricing in ocean and air shipping for the decline in revenue.

Ocean freight results benefited from more volume and higher prices, and airfreight results benefited from what the company described as “a decreasing cost environment.”

Customs revenue also increased 5.9% in the quarter, driven by higher volume.

Robinson Fresh, a division that supplies fresh produce to restaurants and grocery stores, generated net revenue of $28.6 million in the first quarter, a decline of 5.2% from $30.2 million in 2018.

The company said weather-related crop damages caused the drop.

C.H. Robinson ranks No. 5 on the Transport Topics Top 50 list of the largest logistics companies in North America and No. 1 on the TT list of top freight brokerage firms. The company also ranks No. 9 on the TT list of top ocean freight forwarders and No. 25 on the TT list of top airfreight forwarders.