Swift Transportation Jumps as Profit Beats Estimates

Swift Transportation Co. rose the most since its December 2010 initial public offering after the trucking company posted profit that beat analysts’ estimates.

The shares jumped 28 percent to $13.14 in New York, the highest closing price since July 2011. Through yesterday, the stock had gained 6.5 percent in 12 months, underperforming the 15 percent gain in the Russell 2000 Index.

Swift’s fourth-quarter profit excluding some items rose to 38 cents a share from 29 cents a year earlier, according to a regulatory filing by the Phoenix-based company yesterday after the close of regular trading. That beat the 26-cent average of analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

“Despite a tepid freight market in the fourth quarter, Swift delivered a standout quarter via strong operational discipline and successful fleet rationalization,” Chaz Jones, an analyst at Wunderlich Securities in Memphis, Tennessee, said in a note to clients. Jones advises investors buy the stock.

Jack Waldo, an analyst at Stephens Inc. in Little Rock, Arkansas, upgraded his rating on Swift today to overweight from equal weight.

Today’s trading volume exceeded 15.8 million shares, more than 11 times the daily average for the past six months.

Swift expects per-share earnings to increase 10 percent to 15 percent this year, Chief Financial Officer Virginia Henkels said today on a conference call with analysts.

“This will depend obviously on the economy, fuel prices and other things outside of our control, but we will remain focused on improving the operational items that are in our control,” she said.

A “large majority” of Swift customers in the U.S. and Mexico “have a positive outlook on 2013,” Henkels said on the call. “From a consumers’ perspective, there is more certainty today than existed three or six months ago.”

Swift returned to the stock market more than three years after co-founder Jerry Moyes took the company private in a leveraged buyout valued at $2.7 billion.

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