Arkansas Best loss wider than expected; shares fall

Fri Apr 27, 2012 12:32pm EDT

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(Reuters) - Trucker Arkansas Best Corp ABFS.O reported a wider-than-expected quarterly loss, hurt by higher costs and lower daily tonnage levels, sending its shares down nearly 11 percent.

Daily tonnage -- the amount of cargo a truck carries -- was 12.5 percent below last year levels, hurt mainly due to the company's pricing actions.

For the quarter ended March 31, the company posted an adjusted loss of 63 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Analysts on average expected a loss of 18 cents per share.

Todd Fowler, an analyst with KeyBanc Capital Markets, said the impact of the pricing actions on tonnage, network utilization, margins and earnings were underestimated.

"Lower tonnage levels could now have a greater impact on results than previously anticipated," Fowler said. The analyst downgraded his rating on the stock to "hold" from "buy."

However, the company said it experienced good sequential tonnage trends in April as it added new customers and saw additional shipments from existing customers. On a year-over-year basis, tonnage for April was lower.

"April would be the weakest month of that (second) quarter, June is always stronger than April or May," CEO Judy McReynolds said in a conference call.

Arkansas Best's shares, which have fallen 9 percent since the Fort Smith, Arkansas-based company reported fourth-quarter results, were down 6 percent, or $1.05, at $16.33, in midday trading on the Nasdaq. Earlier in the day, the stock touched a near seven-month low of $15.50.

(Reporting by Suzannah Benjamin in Bangalore; Editing by Joyjeet Das, Maju Samuel)

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