CH Robinson Worldwide's CEO Discusses Q1 2012 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

CH Robinson Worldwide (CHRW)

Q1 2012 Earnings Call

April 24, 2012 5:00 pm ET

Executives

Angela K. Freeman - Vice President of Investor Relations and Public Affairs

John P. Wiehoff - Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President

Chad M. Lindbloom - Chief Financial Officer, Principal Accounting Officer and Senior Vice President

Analysts

Christian Wetherbee - Citigroup Inc, Research Division

Tavio Headley - Jefferies & Company, Inc., Research Division

Thomas R. Wadewitz - JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division

Nathan Brochmann - William Blair & Company L.L.C., Research Division

Scott H. Group - Wolfe Trahan & Co.

Alexander V. Brand - SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Inc., Research Division

John L. Barnes - RBC Capital Markets, LLC, Research Division

Justin B. Yagerman - Deutsche Bank AG, Research Division

Thomas S. Albrecht - BB&T Capital Markets, Research Division

Matthew Troy - Susquehanna Financial Group, LLLP, Research Division

Benjamin J. Hartford - Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated, Research Division

Presentation

Operator

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the C.H. Robinson First Quarter 2012 Conference Call. [Operator Instructions] As a reminder, this conference is being recorded today, Tuesday, April 24, 2012. I would now like to turn the conference over to Angie Freeman, C.H. Robinson Vice President of Investor Relations. Please go ahead, Ms. Freeman.

Angela K. Freeman

Thank you, Joe. On our call today will be John Wiehoff, CEO; and Chad Lindbloom, CFO. John and Chad will provide some prepared comments on the highlights of our first quarter performance, and we will follow that with a question-and-answer session. [Operator Instructions]

Please note that there are presentation slides that accompany our call to facilitate our discussion. These slides can be accessed in the Investor Relations section of our website, which is located at chrobinson.com. John and Chad will be referring to the slides in their prepared comments.

Finally, I would like to remind you that comments made by John, Chad or others representing C.H. Robinson may contain forward-looking statements, which are subject to risks and uncertainties. Our SEC filings contain additional information about factors that could cause actual results to differ from management's expectations.

And with that, I'll turn it over to John.

John P. Wiehoff

Thank you, Angie, and thanks to everybody who's taken the time to listen to our first quarter 2012 conference call. We sent our earnings release out about 45 minutes ago, and as Angie mentioned, I will be referencing the accompanying slide deck, that helps explain our results for the first quarter.

Starting with Slide 2 on that deck, the overall summarized results referencing our 4 kind of key metrics that we always talk about. Our total revenues for the quarter grew 7.9%. Net revenues grew 6.3%. Income from operations were up 8.2%, and EPS increased 10.2% for the quarter. Similar to past sessions, I'm going to make some prepared comments by service line, and then turn it over to Chad for some overall financial statement comments, and then I'll wrap up with a few other thoughts.

Before we jump into the comments by service line, I'd just like to highlight some of the general themes that hopefully will come through in the call, is that across all of our services, we did have better volume growth than the past couple of quarters. We felt better about our market share gains and our growth in almost all of our activities. We also feel very good about our execution and our service levels. We feel like the company is running well and that our services are being delivered in a fashion that we're proud of. We'll hear a fair amount about margin compression across all of our services, and another common theme is that we are investing in people and systems, with hiring and additional investments up to support our future growth.

So moving from there to Slide 3, our overall transportation results for the first quarter of 2012. Transportation net revenues grew 7.1% for the quarter. As I mentioned, we did have volume growth in all of our services in the transportation area. Our transportation net revenue margin declined in the first quarter of 2012 compared to the first quarter of 2011 and as you can see in the chart, was at the low end of our 10-year history.

We've talked a lot in previous calls about all of the things that can impact our margins. Given our business model, there are a lot of things and a lot of forces that end up being reflected in our net revenue margins, including fuel, timing and pricing changes around supply and demand, mix, competition, seasonality, utilization, a bunch of other things as well. The comments throughout the various services will hopefully help you understand a number of the impacts that are affecting our net revenue margins. We do understand that it's challenging to understand what are fluctuations versus what are longer trends.

Moving to the truck results, truck services on Slide 4. A reminder that this truck net revenue for us includes both truckload and LTL, and combined, they grew 7.1% for the first quarter of 2012. In the truckload services, we were -- we did have stronger volume growth, with 8% truckload volume growth for the first quarter of 2012.

While our volume growth in the quarter was better than the past several quarters, we are in a part of the cycle where the tightening market causes our net revenue margin to decrease. Our truckload net revenue margin declined in the first quarter, primarily due to our cost of capacity rising faster than our pricing to our customers. The truckload market is tightening, and that caused truck pricing to rise. Higher-priced fuel also contributed to truckload net revenue margin decline.

We've discussed in the past, and it probably is a good time to revisit, our pricing to customers and how we execute that. Our pricing decisions are decentralized on a customer-specific basis. So our network of offices and our people and account managers that are in that network, one of the strengths of our business model is that we treat each customer and each opportunity with unique consideration around how we look at the market and the service requirements for that customer.

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