United Parcel Service reported a fourth quarter net loss after it took a large pension related charge. It also forecast weaker-than-estimate profit for 2013 due to an uneven global economy. The company followed the trend of other big companies such as Northrop Grumman and Rockwell Automation that were dragged down by pension-related charges. A prolonged period of low interest rates is driving up companies’ pension costs.
Excluding the $3 billion noncash pension charge, UPS still missed the forecasts of analysts. The company said it got a $225 million increase in pension costs this year. Chief financial officer Kurt Kuehn said that it will be a significant drag in 2013.
UPS is expecting earnings to increase 6 to 12 percent in 2013, from $4.80 to $5.06 per share. This is below the average forecast by Wall Street of $5.11. Analysts said that the lower expectation was due to the worldwide economic growth.
The company posted a fourth quarter net loss of $1.75 billion or $1.83 per share after the pension charge. It was in contrast to a net profit of $725 million or 74 cents per share last year. Revenue went up 2.9 percent to $14.57 billion from $14.17 billion. UPS said costs related to Superstorm Sandy that devastated the New York metropolitan area in late October slashed profit by 5 cents per share in the quarter.
Excluding the one-time, noncash items, profit was at $1.32 per share, which was still below the analysts’ average estimate of $1.38 per share. The company told reporters that it is experiencing a cycle of mixed growth and mixed signals.
Analysts said that the 7.7 percent increase in next-day air shipments in the United States is a good sign for UPS. The company has a large operating capability and more volume means good business. UPS’ largest rival, FedEx, has been struggling with declining profits as customers opt to send goods by ground.