United Parcel Service reported a 21 percent increase in sales, to nearly $24.9 billion, in the final three months of last year, driven in part by a supercharged online holiday shopping season.
“Our financial performance in the fourth quarter exceeded our expectations, and I thank all UPS-ers for their extraordinary efforts to deliver industry-leading service through the holidays,” Carol Tomé, the company’s chief executive, said in a statement.
Ms. Tomé, who took the helm at the company just after the pandemic began, has been putting in place a “better, not bigger” strategy, aimed at improving profit over package volume. Excluding pension costs and a tax charge related to the sale of UPS Freight, the company’s profit per share rose to $2.66 in the fourth quarter from $1.94 a year earlier, far surpassing analyst estimates. The company’s share price was up more than 3.5 percent in premarket trading, but dipped after the market opened.
Despite causing early disruptions, the pandemic accelerated a shift to online shopping, helping to raise the company’s average daily package volume for the year to 24.6 million, a 13 percent increase from 2019. Excluding one-time costs, profit also rose 9.5 percent for 2020, to nearly $7.2 billion.
The company declined to provide a forecast for this year, citing uncertainty caused by the pandemic.