United Parcel Service (UPS), the world's largest package delivery company, recently announced a $1 billion plan to expand its main sorting complex in Louisville, Kentucky. The plan calls for a 1.1 million square foot addition to its UPS Worldport facility, which is the company's largest sorting facility and main hub to the international market. The expansion, expected to be completed by 2010, will expand the hub's sort capacity from 304,000 packages per hour to 487,000 packages per hour.

The expansion of the four-year old facility, which is the most technologically advanced sorting complex in the world, is being made to meet expected future demand for product shipping as global trade continues to show strength. UPS has seen this strength first-hand, as its average daily package volume increased 4.3% in 2005, from 14.1 million in 2004 to 14.75 million in 2005. The international segment saw the biggest jump, as average volume increased by 7% to 1.36 million packages daily.

Due to across-the-board increases in average revenue per package shipped, the growth in package volume which UPS saw in 2005 easily translated into strong growth in the company's financials. In 2005, UPS reported total revenue growth of 9.2% as consolidated revenue rose to $36.58 billion from $33.49 billion in 2004.

And again, the strongest growth segment was international packaging, which saw revenues rise 21.4% compared to 6.3% in the domestic packaging segment. The international packaging segment now comprises 18.6% of total revenue, up from 16.7% in 2004.

Positioned in over 200 countries with nearly 600 airplanes, UPS is well positioned to benefit from global economic and trade growth. The other macro-benefit that UPS is likely to gain from is the increased reduction in trade barriers in countries such as China, which only serves to increase its customer base. So with UPS showing continued strength in its operations along with a solid macro theme of global trade growth, does this make UPS a good investment?

Warren Buffett seems to think so, as Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) recently reported a $113 million stake in the company. UPS sports a wide economic moat as there are few competitors in the field, with the only other major players being FedEx (FDX), DHL (DPSTF) and TNT (TP). UPS and the industry also enjoy almost unlimited barriers to entry due to the extensive capital costs that one would incur building the network and infrastructure necessary to compete.

The major negative here, is that even with the economic moat, the company is still competing in a commodity business, where price is the major concern for consumers. This can easily lead to increased competition from firms already established in the industry reducing the company's margins.

But so far, UPS's margins have held steady over the last five years, with operating and profit margins averaging 13.5% and 8.9% respectively. We also see the strength of UPS's operations in its ability to generate strong cash flow from operations, which has averaged a little over $5 billion per year for the last five years.

Looking at the P/E ratio for UPS as a rough guide of valuation, the company is currently trading at the lower range of its historical valuation. UPS currently has a trailing P/E ratio of 22.31 based on 2005 earnings and over the last five years the company's P/E has ranged from 21.7 to 29.2.

So if you believe that economic growth and trade around the world will remain strong, UPS may be a great play on this macro theme. While more due diligence is needed to come up with a conclusion on an investment in UPS, with the likes of Warren Buffett jumping in, it just may be the right time to add UPS to your portfolio.

Related Articles
  1. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    What Exactly Are Arbitrage Mutual Funds?

    Learn about arbitrage funds and how this type of investment generates profits by taking advantage of price differentials between the cash and futures markets.
  2. Investing News

    Ferrari’s IPO: Ready to Roll or Poor Timing?

    Will Ferrari's shares move fast off the line only to sputter later?
  3. Stock Analysis

    5 Cheap Dividend Stocks for a Bear Market

    Here are five stocks that pay safe dividends and should be at least somewhat resilient to a bear market.
  4. Investing

    How to Win More by Losing Less in Today’s Markets

    The further you fall, the harder it is to climb back up. It’s a universal truth that is painfully apparent in the investing world.
  5. Options & Futures

    Pick 401(k) Assets Like A Pro

    Professionals choose the options available to you in your plan, making your decisions easier.
  6. Fundamental Analysis

    Use Options Data To Predict Stock Market Direction

    Options market trading data can provide important insights about the direction of stocks and the overall market. Here’s how to track it.
  7. Stock Analysis

    The Biggest Risks of Investing in Berkshire Hathaway Stock

    Learn about the risks of investing in Berkshire Hathaway. Understand how issues of succession, credit downgrade risk and increased regulation could hurt it.
  8. Stock Analysis

    2 Oil Stocks to Buy Right Now (PSX,TSO)

    Can these two oil stocks buck the trend?
  9. Investing News

    What Alcoa’s (AA) Breakup Means for Investors

    Alcoa plans to split into two companies. Is this a bullish catalyst for investors?
  10. Stock Analysis

    Top 3 Stocks for the Coming Holiday Season

    If you want to buck the bear market trend by going long on consumer stocks, these three might be your best bets.
  1. How do dividends affect retained earnings?

    When a company issues a cash dividend to its shareholders, the retained earnings listed on the balance sheet are reduced ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. What is the difference between called-up share capital and paid-up share capital?

    The difference between called-up share capital and paid-up share capital is investors have already paid in full for paid-up ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Why would a corporation issue convertible bonds?

    A convertible bond represents a hybrid security that has bond and equity features; this type of bond allows the conversion ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. How does additional paid in capital affect retained earnings?

    Both additional paid-in capital and retained earnings are entries under the shareholders' equity section of a company's balance ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. What types of capital are not considered share capital?

    The money a business uses to fund operations or growth is called capital, and there are a number of capital sources available. ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. What is the difference between issued share capital and subscribed share capital?

    The difference between subscribed share capital and issued share capital is the former relates to the amount of stock for ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Trading Center
You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!