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UPS: Great Business, But Lacking a Safety Net


Sep 6, 2023

Justin Sullivan’s investment thesis is that United Parcel Service, Inc. (NYSE:UPS) stock is currently a hold. While the company has a strong business model and has made strategic investments in technology to improve efficiency, there are challenges in the short-term financial outlook due to macroeconomic factors such as economic slowdown, high labor costs, and rising fuel prices. Sullivan believes that the projected 6% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for the next five years doesn’t provide a sufficient margin of safety compared to other investment options.

UPS operates in over 220 countries and provides services like package delivery and supply chain management. With three main segments – U.S. Domestic Package, International Package, and Supply Chain & Freight – UPS has a well-structured business model that covers both domestic and international markets. The company faces competition from FedEx and emerging competitor Amazon, both of which offer a broad range of shipping and logistics services.

UPS’s extensive global network and scale are seen as crucial assets that give it a competitive edge in the logistics and package delivery industry. The company is well-positioned to capitalize on economies of scale, improving cost efficiency and boosting profit margins. These economies of scale also create barriers to entry for new competitors. Despite the emergence of Amazon Logistics, the logistics industry remains a near-duopoly between UPS and FedEx, with UPS holding a commanding market share of 50.97% in the Transport & Logistics Industry.

UPS’s brand strength and customer service are key assets that reinforce its competitive position. The company has earned trust through consistent reliability and customer service and has seen growth in engagement with small and medium-sized businesses, suggesting strong customer loyalty. UPS is also investing in technology to improve customer experience, such as the rollout of self-service kiosks in its stores.

In the short-term, UPS is facing a challenging financial landscape due to the recent downturn in key performance indicators, including a decline in revenues, adjusted EPS, and adjusted operating margins. Factors such as the macro-economic slowdown and high gas prices are putting pressure on operating margins. Additionally, a new labor contract will impact operating margins further. However, UPS is making strategic moves to counterbalance these challenges, leveraging technology to reduce expenses and improve efficiency.

Over the past five years, UPS has demonstrated solid financial performance, with consistent revenue growth and increasing earnings per share. The company has a manageable amount of debt and a healthy current ratio.

Looking beyond the next 12 months, assuming a return to favorable macroeconomic conditions, Sullivan believes that UPS should be able to expand margins as a result of the implementation of its Total Services Plan. When considering valuation, Sullivan suggests conducting a discounted cashflow analysis of the business to assess what is being paid versus what is being received.

Overall, while UPS has a strong business model and competitive advantages, the short-term financial outlook poses challenges. However, the company’s long-term potential remains promising, especially with strategic investments in technology and a focus on customer loyalty.

By Editor

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