Higher shipment volume helped boost C.H. Robinson's profit 17.6 percent in the fourth quarter to $103.2 million as revenue rose 15.8 percent to $2.3 billion.
The third-party logistics giant reported a $387 million profit for the full year, a 7.3 percent improvement over 2009, and a 22.4 percent leap in sales to $9.3 billion.
The Minneapolis-based company reported higher volumes on land, sea and air in the last months of 2010, and a stronger than usual start to 2011.
Its net income grew faster than in the third quarter, when it reported $102.6 million profit, a 7.5 percent year-over-year gain, on $2.4 billion in revenue.
Truckload volume increased 9 percent in the fourth quarter and was up 7 percent in storm-wracked January, usually a slow period for transportation.
"We have much better net revenue growth momentum going into 2011 than we had the last few years," said John P. Wiehoff, C.H. Robinson chairman and CEO.
"A lot could change in marketplace demand and capacity availability as the year progresses, but we are pleased with our early results so far this year," he said.
C.H. Robinson, like other non-asset players, faces higher rates on land and sea. It has to try to balance its rising transportation costs with its own price increases.
Its operating expenses increased 14.1 percent in the quarter and 6 percent in 2010.
Truck transportation accounted for three-quarters of the logistics company's net revenue in the fourth quarter, rising 16.2 percent to $290.5 million.
Excluding fuel surcharges, C.H. Robinson's truckload rates were up 8 percent year-over-year in the quarter, underscoring the recovery in the truckload market. However, truckload costs also increased about 8 percent, excluding fuel costs.
Less-than-truckload net revenue increased approximately 17 percent, the company said, driven by an 11 percent rise in total shipments and improved pricing.
For the full year, truck transportation net revenue rose 3.4 percent to $1.1 billion.
Ocean transportation represented the next largest revenue segment, with sales rising 22.8 percent in the last quarter to $16.7 million on large volume increases.
C.H. Robinson's net revenue margin in ocean transportation declined due to increased cost of capacity, partially offset by increased pricing, the company said.
For the full year, ocean net revenue rose 12.1 percent to $60.8 million.
The company's air freight net revenue rose 16.1 percent in the quarter to $10.8 million, and 29.6 percent for the full year, reaching $42.3 million.
Intermodal rail net revenue grew 9.3 percent in the quarter to $9.4 million, pushed up by increased prices, and 3.7 percent for the full year to $36.6 million.
The company saw strong growth in its logistics and information services.
Net revenue from logistics services such as transportation management and customs brokerage increased 17.6 percent in the quarter to $14.6 million.
Revenue in that sector rose 27.8 percent for the year to $57.3 million.
Information services net revenue jumped 20.9 percent in the quarter to $14.7 million and rose 21.1 percent for the full year to $55.5 million. The company attributed that growth to an increase in transactions and in some fees.
Sourcing net revenue dropped 4.2 percent in the fourth quarter to $31.7 million, primarily because of decreased volume with a large customer, C.H. Robinson said. For 2010, sourcing net revenue increased 8.4 percent to $139.4 million.
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