As global shipping continued to face disruptions in the first quarter, logistics company C.H. Robinson helped keep shipments moving.
As a result, the Eden Prairie-based company had one of its best first quarters over the past five years.
"We are proud of our first-quarter results," said the company's chief executive, Bob Biesterfeld, in a statement. "As global-shipping markets remain disrupted, our team around the globe stayed focused on serving the needs of our customers and delivering innovative solutions to keep global supply chains moving."
C.H. Robinson — one of the largest third-party logistics companies in the world — reported record quarterly revenue of $4.8 billion, a 26.3% increase over the same period last year. The company more than doubled earnings to $173.3 million, or $1.28 per share.
Revenue exceeded analyst expectations by 9% and earnings per share by 30%.
The results, Biesterfeld said, demonstrated the "strength and earnings power" of the company's business model.
Adjusted gross profit was $702.4 million, a 24% increase compared with the first quarter last year. The March 2020 acquisition of Prime Distribution Services, a provider of retail consolidation and value-added warehouse services, also helped the gross profit increase.
C.H. Robinson's two largest business segments, North American Surface Transportation (NAST) and Global Forwarding, set the pace for the company during the quarter.
Total revenue of NAST was $3.2 billion, a rise of 13.7%. Income from operations rose 38.8% to $136.8 million. Higher prices and a 15% increase in LTL (less than truckload) shipments overcame a 6.5% decrease in truckload volume.
In Global Forwarding, revenue grew 118% to $1.2 billion and income from operations was $90.6 million, a 658% increase over the first quarter last year. A 27% increase in ocean-shipping volumes and 7% increase in air shipments paired with higher pricing fueled the results.
"The macro environment in the first quarter continued to be one of tight capacity and increased pricing in the marketplace driven by several supply-side constraints, including the ongoing challenges of driver availability, coupled with robust demand," Biesterfeld told analysts on the company's earnings conference call.
C.H. Robinson's continued investment in technology, including a release earlier this year from its tech incubator Robinson Labs, continues to attract shippers to its platform. Early in April, the company released Emissions IQ to help shippers measure their carbon footprint.
The latest release from Robinson Labs is part of a previously announced commitment from the company to invest $1 billion in technology over five years. Biesterfeld told analysts on the call that they added 6,900 shippers in the first quarter to their network, the most carriers added in a quarter during their history.
The economy is expected to pick up in the second half of the year, but the truck driver shortage remains. The company doesn't give financial guidance, but Biesterfeld said the company expects market conditions for NAST, its largest business, will remain tight for the rest of the year.
C.H. Robinson shares closed Wednesday at $93.63, down 3%. Over the past 52 weeks, share price has ranged between $68.46 and $106.75.
Patrick Kennedy • 612-673-7926