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Forward Air Posts Record Quarterly, Annual Results Across Broad Front


Expedited surface transport firm Forward Air Corporation (NASDAQ: FWRD) today posted record quarterly and full-year results in revenue, operating income and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA).

In addition, the Greeneville, Tennessee-based company, whose niche is offering a fast cycle, less-expensive alternative to air transport, reported record full-year levels of net income, earnings per-share, operating and free cash flows.

In the fourth quarter, revenue rose 9.7 percent from the year-earlier quarter to $356.6 million, while operating income climbed nearly 26 percent to $35 million. Net income during the quarter fell to $27.7 million compared to $34.7 million in the fourth quarter of 2017, impacted by a 53-cent per share benefit from the 2017 tax law signed in the fourth quarter.

The company said its quarterly per-share earnings of 95 cents surpassed its own prior guidance by between 10 and 14 cents per share.

Revenue for the year rose 13 percent to $1.3 billion, while operating income rose by more than $13 million to $122 million. Net income climbed about $5 million to $92.1 million. Net income per diluted share was $3.12 compared to $2.89 in the same period of 2017. The 2017 results included the 53-cent per share benefit from enactment of the tax law.

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For the year and quarter, Forward Air generated operating cash flows of $152.6 million and $38.7 million, respectively. Operating cash flows rose nearly $50 million and $13 million from the respective year-earlier periods.

Fourth-quarter EBITDA was $45.9 million compared to $38.3 million in the same period of 2017. Full-year EBITDA rose nearly $15 million to $164.2 million for the year. Fourth-quarter free cash flow was $31.8 million, compared to $1.9 million in the prior-year quarter. Full-year 2018 free cash flow was $117.3 million compared to $67.5 million in 2017.

Tom Schmitt, Forward Air's president and CEO, said the record results largely stemmed from a strong fourth-quarter performance. Schmitt cited a more favorable traffic mix and "outstanding" performance in its intermodal business.

Forward Air provided guidance of first-quarter revenue increases in the 6 to 10 percent range, with net income of 60 to 64 cents per diluted share compared to 60 cents in the first quarter of 2018. Company executives will hold a conference call with analysts tomorrow morning (February 8).

The company also said its board approved a stock repurchase authorization plan for up to 5 million shares of its common shares. In conjunction, the board cancelled the company's 2016 stock repurchase authorization. As of two days ago, Forward Air had slightly more than 28.9 million outstanding shares.

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