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FedEx Delivers Value, With or Without Ackman

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Shares of FedEx (FDX - Get Report) closed Tuesday at $103.15, up 4.4% after rising more than 7% at one point on speculation Bill Ackman, hedge fund manager of Pershing Square, was looking to make a sizable investment in the shipping giant.

It has not been confirmed that Ackman is interested in FedEx, but a Reuters report detailed an investment worth as much as $1 billion that may be going somewhere.

With past successes including McDonald's (MCD) and Proctor & Gamble (PG), Ackman has an excellent record of picking winners. In the case of FedEx, investors are looking to skate to where they think the puck may be going next.

From my vantage point, though, FedEx was a buy with or without Ackman, even though investors were sour on FedEx's fourth-quarter results. The Street didn't believe it was good enough, sending the stock down 8%, which also yielded several downgrades.

As I've discussed recently, it was an overreaction. The company is going through a period of transition. I'm not going to make excuses for weak profits or try to pretend that shipping volumes have not been an issue. But the company needed time to allow management to execute its plan.

Contrary to what many analysts believe, there were very few surprises in the report. The company's freight business has struggled for some time, with the express and ground businesses picking up the slack. This quarter was no different. Nor did management pretend that it was an excellent quarter.
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The company posted revenue of $11.4 billion, representing 4% year-over-year growth and broadly in line with Street estimates. As has been a recurring theme, shipping volume was once again on the light side -- as average daily shipments fell 1% year-over-year in the U.S. But the company was able to offset this with a 3% increase in international export volumes.

Segment-wise, I believe that FedEx did what it had to do -- even though many disagree. Both the ground business and express business were up, 12% and 3% respectively. This made up for the 1% decline in freight. Was this a concern? I believe it was. But I don't believe that this is a situation where FedEx is losing ground to competitors.
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