J.B. Hunt 4Q Profit Up 25 Percent, Sets Record

J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. said Thursday that revenue growth, cost controls and a lower cost of borrowing contributed to a 25 percent increase in the company's fourth-quarter profit.

Shortly before the stock markets closed, the Lowell-based carrier reported record earnings of $72.57 million, or 61 cents per share, for the quarter that ended Dec. 31, compared with earnings of $57.85 million, or 46 cents per share, in the same period in 2010.

Total revenue also set a record, rising nearly 18 percent to $1.2 billion from $1.02 billion a year earlier.

The company beat the average earnings estimate of 58 cents per share from 27 analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters.

All four segments of the company — intermodal, dedicated contract services, truck and integrated capacity solutions — contributed to the increase in operating revenue, a company news release stated. Load growth of 17 percent in intermodal, which involves at least two modes of transportation, helped push that segment's revenue up 24 percent.

"During 2011, we began implementing improvements to the approach we take with our larger, more complex customers," president and CEO John Roberts said in the release. "We will continue to invest in customer-centric services that produce sufficient rates of return and sustainable cycles of cash for further reinvestment and innovation in transportation solutions."

For the year, J.B. Hunt posted net earnings of $257 million, or $2.11 per share, up 28.75 percent over the previous year. Total revenue rose 19.53 percent to $4.53 billion.

J.B. Hunt’s shares (Nasdaq: JBHT) rose 67 cents, or 1.38 percent, on Thursday to close at $49.30 on the Nasdaq. Shares have traded between $34.42 and $49.12 in the past year.

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