Forwarders see higher volumes in Q4, but not all see higher profits

K+N revisedToday our sister publication, Cargo Facts reports: Kuehne + Nagel and Panalpina, two of the world’s largest forwarders and logistics services providers, are headquartered in Switzerland, but while their head offices may be close, their fourth-quarter results are far apart. Despite both carriers reporting significant increases in airfreight volumes, year-over-year, in the fourth quarter of 2016, K+N reported a 12.7 percent increase in fourth-quarter net income, while its compatrot Panalpina saw its net income tumble almost 70 percent.

A solid quarter for K+N
Kuehne + Nagel reported fourth-quarter net income up 12.7 percent, y-o-y, to US$189 million, despite a flat gross profit, which rose 0.5 percent to $1.67 billion. Operating income (EBIT) for the quarter rose 14.3 percent, to $242 million. Looking at the results by business segment:

  • Airfreight: Gross profit from air freight forwarding was up 7.4 percent in the fourth quarter to $249 million, as tonnage rose 10.4 percent. Segment operating margin rose 4.2 points to 31.6 percent.
  • Seafreight: Gross profit from ocean forwarding was down 2.5 percent to $351 million, despite an 8.3 percent increase in volumes. Operating margin in the segment was down 3.5 points to a still-impressive 30.2 percent.
  • Overland: Gross Profit rose slightly, up 1.4 percent to $225 million.
  • Contract Logistics: Gross profit in K+N’s Contract Logistics segment was nearly flat (down 0.4 percent) at $840 million.

Overall in 2016, K+N’s net income was up 6.0 percent, to $727 million, as gross profit rose 4.8 percent, to $6.6 billion. Operating income for the year was up 8.0 percent to $927 million. For the full year, net margin was up 0.1 points to 11.0 percent.

panalpina finalA not-so-good quarter for Panalpina:
Switzerland’s other big forwarder fared less well, reporting fourth quarter net income down 69.5 percent, y-o-y, to just US$6 million, as gross profit fell 9.2 percent to $336 million. Operating income (EBIT) for the quarter was down 42.2 percent to $15 million. Panalpina’s Ocean Freight segment was the clear weak spot in the quarter – despite a slight (0.9 percent) increase in volume, the segment reported an operating loss of $7 million. The Air Freight segment did better – volumes rose 14.2 percent in the quarter, and although EBIT was down 1.0 percent, it was still positive at $21 million.

Panalpina CEO Stefan Karlen blamed the persistent weakness of the oil-and-gas sector and the collapse of Hanjin for the poor performance. Karlen commented, “Much lower volumes from the oil and gas sector meant that we had to restructure that part of our business during the first half-year. In the second half, the Hanjin collapse and the very busy air freight peak season led to tight capacities and soaring rates, which put strong pressure on our margins.”

Those interested in learning more about the opportunities and challenges facing the air freight forwarding industry,  should join us at this year’s Cargo Facts Asia Symposium in Shanghai, April 25-26, where a top forwarders will present their views. For more information, or to register, go to



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