Weak world economy pushes A&B's earnings down 92.9%


POSTED: Friday, May 01, 2009

Alexander & Baldwin Inc.'s earnings plunged 92.9 percent in the first quarter amid weakness in the company's ocean shipping and logistics businesses and slower sales and leasing activity in its real estate operations.

The parent of Matson Navigation Co., the state's largest shipper, posted net income of $3 million, or 7 cents a share, compared with $42.1 million, or $1.01 a share, a year ago.




By the numbers

        First-quarter net

        $3 million

Year-earlier net
        $42.1 million


Revenue plummeted 44.7 percent to $319.9 million from $578.7 million as the company felt the effects of the national and international economic contraction.

“;Despite (the shipping and real estate slowdown and the global recession) and various work-force restructuring of over $6 million, we posted a modest profit,”; said Allen Doane, chairman and chief executive of A&B.

Matson, which reduced its nonunion work force by nearly 15 percent, saw declines in freight volume across the board as Hawaii container units fell 14 percent, Hawaii automobile shipments tumbled 44 percent and China container units decreased 18 percent.

Doane said the severity of the drop in Matson's freight volume “;has no modern parallel”; and that “;the wrenching reduction in world trade has taken its toll on our highly successful China business.”;

“;Matson has taken a number of measures to reduce its cost structure for these lower volumes, but it takes time for these actions to produce tangible results,”; Doane said.

Matson had an operating loss of $500,000, including its $6 million restructuring cost, compared with an operating profit of $15.9 million in the year-earlier period. Excluding the restructuring costs, Matson's operating profit fell 65 percent to $5.5 million from $15.9 million. Revenue declined 17 percent to $201.1 million from $243 million.

A&B's logistics services saw its operating profit tumble 68 percent to $1.5 million versus $4.7 million, while revenue declined 26 percent to $76.2 million from $102.6 million.

The company's real estate sales unit posted an 86 percent decline in operating profit to $5.6 million from $41.4 million, while revenue fell 87 percent to $25.2 million from $187.4 million.

A&B's real estate leasing division had an operating profit of $12 million, down 14 percent from $13.9 million a year ago, while revenue slipped 6 percent to $27.2 million from $28.8 million.

The company's agribusiness segment had an operating loss of $1.9 million, compared with a profit of $4.8 million a year ago, as the number of tons of sugar produced fell 14 percent. Revenue declined 21 percent to $17.7 million from $22.5 million.

Separately, A&B said it will revert to its former stock ticker symbol of ALEX, its longtime identifying mark that was changed to AXB on Oct. 1 when the company began trading on the New York Stock Exchange after moving over from the Nasdaq. A&B will start trading under ALEX on Wednesday.

“;ALEX is a return to our roots as a publicly traded company and, coupled with the prestige, visibility and efficient trading platform of NYSE, symbolizes the marriage of our storied past and bright future,”; Doane said.

A&B also maintained its dividend at 31.5 cents a share. It will be payable on June 4 to shareholders of record as of the close of business on May 14.