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Swift Transportation Profits Down 74%


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Two Phoenix-based trucking giants released vastly different earnings statements this week, with Knight Transportation Inc. announcing a 5 percent uptick in first-quarter profits and Swift Transportation Co. reporting that its profits plummeted 74 percent.

Most American trucking companies can sympathize with Swift, which said it took a hit from higher fuel costs, bad weather and waning demand.

Trucking is one of the first industries to suffer when the economy lags and one of the first to recover.

In fact, three other major U.S. trucking firms this week reported a drop in earnings, including J.B. Hunt Transportation Services Inc., Con-way Inc. and Landstar System Inc.

YRC Worldwide Inc., the largest in terms of sales, is scheduled to report quarterly results next week.

Knight Transportation has been able to weather the storm, though.

The company said it benefited from fleet expansion and the purchase of Roads West Transportation.

The firm earned $16.6 million, or 19 cents per share, compared with $15.8 million, or 18 cents per share, for the year-earlier quarter.

Revenue increased 12 percent to $166.5 million from $149.1 million in the 2006 period.

Analysts from the firm Stifel Nicolaus called the company's performance "terrific" given negative factors in the industry.

"The fact that Knight is able to post positive EPS (earnings per share) growth, even with surplus equipment temporarily on the market, is a strong testament to the company's operating ability and the durability of its growth strategy," the firm said in a research report.

Meanwhile, Swift's quarterly net income dropped to $10 million, or 13 cents a share, from $37.9 million, or 50 cents a share, a year earlier.

Sales fell 4.6 percent, to $727.2 million.

Swift said an impending buyout also affected earnings.

The company's founder and former chief executive, Jerry Moyes, has made a $2.5 billion bid to take the company private. Shareholders will vote next Friday on the $31.55-a-share offer.

Moyes has expressed dissatisfaction with the company's operations since exiting as CEO in 2005.

A Swift spokesman said he could not comment during the pending merger.

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