Consumers are making more online purchases than ever. For the transportation companies making sure all these goods get where they’re supposed to go, it’s been a very profitable shift.
For Atlanta-based shipping giant, UPS, a surge in ecommerce sales helped it rise to the No. 100 spot on this year Forbes Global 2000, our annual ranking of the world’s largest companies based on a composite of sales, profits, assets and market value. That’s best among all transportation companies, and it seizes the sector’s top spot from rival FedEx, which checks in this year at No. 162.
UPS — which claims Amazon as its largest customer — recorded annual revenue of $ 97.2 billion in 2021, up from $ 84.6 billion in 2020. And it turned a $ 12.8 billion profit, up from $ 7.7 billion. Those numbers mirror a broader surge in the ecommerce market. Online shoppers spent more than $ 870 billion in the US last year, per government data, up 10% from 2020 and 44% from 2019, when the total was just $ 600 billion.
But the growth rate has slowed back down to its pre-pandemic levels. While the ecommerce market grew by 32% in 2020, it expanded by 14% in 2021. And there are other potential stressors on the horizon. If inflation persists, consumer spending could decline, which could take a bite out of the shipping business.
“We’re not going to see the kind of growth that we experienced during COVID, clearly,” said CEO Carol Tome during the company’s first-quarter earnings call. UPS reported a 7.4% drop in residential deliveries compared to the first quarter of 2021. “But e-commerce sales will continue to grow.”
The same increase in online sales and shipping traffic that aided UPS also helped drive a record-breaking year at AP Moller-Maersk, which lands at No. 159 on this year’s list. The Dutch shipping giant logged $ 61.8 billion in revenue during 2021, up 55% from the year before. Profit growth was also explosive, rocketing to $ 18 billion in 2021 from $ 2.9 billion in 2020.
So far, 2022 has been even better. For the first quarter of the year, Maersk reported $ 19.3 billion in revenue and a $ 6.8 billion profit.
“We see, frankly, enormous potential for growth in logistics in the next decade,” CEO, Soren Skou, said during the company’s latest earnings call.
Another shipping giant, Evergreen Marine, made the biggest jump of any transportation company, landing at No. 494 on this year’s list after placing last year at No. 1,287. Perhaps best known as the operator of Ever Given, the container ship that caused an international incident in 2021 when it ran aground in the Suez Canal, Evergreen recorded a $ 9.5 billion profit in 2021, compared to $ 1.3 billion a year prior.
At No. 243, Chinese rival COSCO Shipping is another notable climber on this year’s list, rising from No. 409.
Checking in at No. 323, the biggest debutante on this year’s list is Daimler Truck, which manufactures trucks, buses, and other heavy-duty vehicles and vehicle parts. It spun out from Daimler — now known as Mercedes-Benz Group — through an IPO in December.
The bottom line for transportation companies: Rising demand and supply-chain bottlenecks are sending revenue and surging profits. That’s reflected by a notable increase in the number of spots in this year’s Forbes Global 2000 that are occupied by companies from the space. Overall, 70 transportation companies made the cut, compared to 48 last year.
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