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Life alone can take some getting used to – especially when a warm embrace had seemed to be on offer. But needs must, so TNT Express is cracking on with its independent existence. Just two months after European antitrust officials blocked a proposed €5.2-billion ($6.8-billion) bid from U.S. delivery giant UPS, the Dutch group has a new chief executive officer and, as of Monday, a detailed business plan.
At €5.85, TNT shares are well below UPS's €9.50 a share bid price. But they have recovered to within hailing distance of the 2012 level reached before Big Brown arrived.
This is somewhat surprising. Monday's plan contained few surprises: in fact, by focusing on TNT's European assets and divesting domestic operations elsewhere, it reverted to the strategy envisaged before the UPS offer. But the hard detail, in terms of numbers and timing, included good news and bad.
On the plus side, disposals seem to be moving forward: news on the Chinese front is "imminent" and moves to hive off the loss-making Brazilian business are formally under way. Profitable Australian operations will be kept.
On the minus front, executives now admit that operating margin progress in the core European business (two-thirds of 2012 sales) will be slower as market overcapacity and aggressive pricing take their toll. A year ago, TNT was talking of a 10 to 11 per cent margin, medium-term. Now, having seen that figure fall from over 8 per cent in 2011 to 6.3 per cent last year, the revised 2015 target is 8 per cent.
That, moreover, is after a comprehensive overhaul and 11-per-cent staff cut, designed to take €220-million a year out of operating costs by mid-decade. TNT shares, on a pricey 21 times 2013 consensus earnings, are obviously looking well beyond the current difficulties. Come 2015, matters may, indeed, be brighter. But, as the company admits, it is all down to the delivery.