J.B. Hunt makes a 1Q triple play

J.B. Hunt Transport posted first-quarter earnings that effectively triple its reported earnings over the same period last year.

Net earnings were $33 million (40 cents per diluted share), over its first quarter 2003 earnings of $11 million (14 cents per diluted share). The company cited brisk demand in the normally slow months of January and February.

Total operating revenues for the first quarter are $618 million, up from $571 million during the first quarter last year. Truck segment revenues, excluding fuel surcharges, increased 4% over last year’s; intermodal segment revenue, excluding fuel surcharges, rose 13%; dedicated segment revenue climbed 5%, excluding fuel.

The company listed several factors that contributed to the rise in earnings including:

· positive safety and claims cost;

· greater demand and high freight activity;

· lower operating supplies and expenses, mostly due to lower maintenance costs;

· lower interest costs.

“The first quarter of this year slightly surpassed the profitability of the previous year’s peak third quarter,” said Kirk Thompson, president & CEO, noting “uncharacteristically brisk demands.”

Thompson added that he expects the company will maintain a steady increase throughout 2004, although the improvement for the remaining quarters “will not approach the dramatic improvement made in the first quarter relative to the prior year.”

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