FORT SMITH, Ark. — Trucking operator Arkansas Best Corp. posted a wider fourth-quarter loss on Thursday as it wrote down the value of assets and its revenue fell amid weak prices for freight shipping. The company also slashed its dividend to 3 cents from 15 cents a share.
CEO Judy McReynolds said the dividend cut was one of several steps the company has taken to preserve cash during “one of the longest and deepest” slumps ever for trucking.
She said 2010 would be challenging until something changes — a better economy or higher prices. The reduced dividend will be paid Feb. 23 to shareholders as of Feb. 9.
The company said it lost $88.7 million, or $3.54 per share, in the last three months of 2009 compared with a loss of $11 million, or 44 cents per share, a year earlier.
Without items such as write-downs in the value of assets and pension settlements, the company said it would have lost $22.1 million, or 88 cents per share.
Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected the company to lose 30 cents per share excluding items.
Revenue fell to $371.6 million from $391.2 million a year ago, beating analysts’ forecast of $365.8 million.
McReynolds said the fourth-quarter results reflected “an extremely weak and uncertain freight environment that has continued now for 40 months,” increasing price competition among truckers.
She said 2010 performance would “continue to be challenged until some positive change occurs such as a better freight economy, improved pricing or some other industry catalyst.”
Trucking companies have suffered as companies have reduced shipments due to the weak economy and sluggish consumer spending. That, along with a surplus of trucks, has caused rates to fall.
Kevin Jones of The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at email@example.com.
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