Heartland Express Q3 net income falls 15.8% year-over-year to US$15.4M as operating revenue increases 4.2% to US$132.5M; operating results continue to be negatively impacted by tight driver supply, higher fuel costs, company says

NORTH LIBERTY, Iowa , October 26, 2011 (press release) – Heartland Express, Inc. (Nasdaq:HTLD - News) announced today financial results for the quarter ended September 30, 2011. Operating revenues for the quarter increased 4.2% to $132.5 million from $127.2 million in the third quarter of 2010. Net income was $15.4 million compared to $18.3 million in the 2010 period, a 15.8% decrease. Earnings per share decreased 15.0% to $0.17 from $0.20 reported in the third quarter of 2010. Fuel surcharge revenues for the quarter increased 46.2% to $27.4 million from $18.8 million in the third quarter of 2010. For the most recent quarter, Heartland Express, Inc. (the "Company") posted an operating ratio (operating expenses as a percentage of operating revenues) of 81.0% and an 11.6% net margin (net income as a percentage of operating revenues).

Operating revenues for the nine month period increased 7.3% to $397.4 million from $370.3 million in the 2010 period. Net income was $52.8 million compared to $46.8 million in the 2010 period, a 12.8% increase. Earnings per share increased 11.5% to $0.58 from $0.52 reported in the first nine months of 2010. Fuel surcharge revenues for the nine month period increased 47.9% to $81.3 million from $55.0 million in the 2010 nine month period. For the nine month period, the Company posted an operating ratio of 79.9% and a 13.3% net margin.

Operating results continued to be negatively impacted by a combination of tight driver availability and escalating fuel prices. The industry continues to be challenged by the shrinking pool of qualified drivers while safety and customer service continue to be the two primary objectives in our hiring process. Fuel expense increased $9.3 million or 29.3%, during the quarter, as compared to the prior year, primarily due to an increase in average fuel prices. During the quarter ended September 30, 2011, the U.S. average cost of fuel was $3.859 per gallon compared to $2.940 per gallon for the same period of 2010, a 31.3% increase. Fuel expense for the nine month period increased 32.7%, as compared to the prior year, on a 30.6% increase in the U.S. average cost of fuel. The Company continues to focus on fuel surcharge pricing, truck idling hours, and fuel purchasing decisions in an effort to lessen the impact of higher fuel costs. Additionally, our new tractor fleet is one of the most fuel-efficient in the industry and is all equipped with idle management controls.

The average age of the Company's tractor fleet was 1.8 years as of September 30, 2011 with 89.3% of the fleet being 2010 models and newer. The Company took delivery of 196 new ProStar Plus Internationals in the third quarter. The Company expects to purchase 329 additional new trucks during the remainder of the year. These new trucks are fuel efficient and meet new emissions standards while providing comfort for our drivers. The Company continues to upgrade its trailer fleet and took delivery of 715 new Great Dane and Wabash trailers during the third quarter. The Company sold 866 trailers during the third quarter and has sold a total of 2,453 trailers through the first nine months of the year. Fleet utilization has been negatively impacted throughout the year due to routing sold trailers to various drop locations, while taking advantage of a robust used trailer market. The Company will continue to execute management's plan to significantly upgrade the Company's trailer fleet through early 2012. The average age of the Company's trailer fleet at September 30, 2011 was 4.2 years compared to 6.3 years at September 30, 2010. These fleet upgrades will keep our tractor and trailer fleet new and positions the Company to take advantage of growth opportunities while allowing us to maintain our strong industry CSA (Compliance, Safety, Accountability) scores.

The Company ended the quarter with cash, cash equivalents, and short-term and long-term investments totaling $205.6 million, a $4.2 million decrease from the $209.8 million reported at December 31, 2010. A total of $41.9 million has been spent on new tractors and trailers, net of equipment sale proceeds, during the first nine months of the year. Long-term and short-term investments include $67.6 million of illiquid auction rate securities, which was down from $91.8 million at December 31, 2010. Since February 2008, the Company has received $142.2 million in calls, all at par, including $2.6 million received during the third quarter and $11.3 million received subsequent to September 30, 2011. Net cash flows from operations continue to be strong at 18.1% of operating revenues. The Company's balance sheet continues to be debt-free with total assets of $544.2 million. The Company ended the past four quarters with a return on total assets of 12.7% and a 19.5% return on equity.

The Company is committed to enhancing shareholder return through the payment of cash dividends and the repurchase of common stock. A dividend of $0.02 per share was declared during the quarter. This dividend was paid on October 4, 2011 to shareholders of record at the close of business on September 23, 2011. The Company has now paid cumulative cash dividends of $342.9 million over the past thirty-three consecutive quarters. In addition, the Company repurchased 2.2 million shares of its outstanding common stock in the third quarter at a cost of $29.6 million. These purchases represent 2.4% of our total outstanding shares and demonstrate the confidence in our business model. Management believes the repurchase of stock represents a solid investment of our excess cash.

Heartland Express continues to build on its reputation as a quality service provider. Providing excellent customer service has allowed us to build solid, long-term relationships. The Company has received thirteen customer service awards this year. These awards include the Cost Plus World Market 2010 Premier Carrier Partner Award, the Eastman Chemical 2010 Supplier Excellence Award for the eighth consecutive year, the 2010 Kellogg Komplete Carrier of the Year for the second time in three years, the Lowe's 2010 Gold Carrier Award, the Transplace Platinum Seal of Approval award for the sixth year in a row, the Walmart Transportation 2010 General Merchandise Platinum Carrier of the Year Award for the second consecutive year, the FedEx Carrier of the Year, FedEx Gold Award for 99.83% on time service, FedEx Smartpost National Carrier of the Year, FedEx Smartpost Peak Performance Award, Ford Schneider National Carrier of the Year, Schneider Commercial Growth Award, and Logistics Management magazine's Quest for Quality award for the 9th consecutive year.

         
HEARTLAND EXPRESS, INC.
AND SUBSIDIARIES
         
CONSOLIDATED STATEMENTS OF INCOME
(Unaudited, in thousands, except per share amounts)
         
  Three Months Ended September 30, Nine Months Ended September 30,
         
  2011 2010 2011 2010
OPERATING REVENUE $132,529 $127,245 $397,413 $370,273
         
OPERATING EXPENSES:        
Salaries, wages, and benefits $40,903 $42,581 $124,832 $125,439
Rent and purchased transportation 1,832 2,343 5,767 7,270
Fuel 40,966 31,690 122,421 92,242
Operations and maintenance 5,257 5,039 16,504 12,610
Operating taxes and licenses 2,400 2,166 6,952 6,191
Insurance and claims 3,920 1,993 10,373 10,366
Communications and utilities 770 906 2,141 2,668
Depreciation 14,900 15,139 40,942 46,241
Other operating expenses 3,248 4,278 10,119 10,805
Gain on disposal of property and equipment (6,799) (7,951) (22,329) (10,484)
         
  107,397 98,184 317,722 303,348
         
Operating income 25,132 29,061 79,691 66,925
         
Interest income 174 347 620 1,166
         
Income before income taxes 25,306 29,408 80,311 68,091
         
Federal and state income taxes 9,907 11,111 27,501 21,254
         
Net income $15,399 $18,297 $52,810 $46,837
         
Earnings per share $0.17 $0.20 $0.58 $0.52
         
Weighted average shares outstanding 90,129 90,689 90,500 90,689
         
Dividends declared per share $0.02 $1.02 $0.06 $1.06
     
 

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