By Mark Maurer
J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. said Friday its finance chief, David Mee, will retire, a move that comes as the transportation company navigates an uncertain U.S. shipping market and grapples with an operating loss in its freight brokerage business.
Mr. Mee, who joined the Lowell, Ark.-based company in 1992 and was appointed CFO in 2009, plans to retire March 1 but will stay on as an adviser until April 1, the company said. John Kuhlow, J.B. Hunt's senior vice president of finance, will serve as interim CFO while the company conducts a search for a permanent successor.
Investors will expect more concrete guidance from a new CFO, analysts said. J.B. Hunt last provided performance expectations in 2018.
Investors will want guidance, for example, on when J.B. Hunt's freight brokerage business will generate operating income after recent investments in its digital platform, analysts said. The company in January reported an $11.8 million operating loss in freight brokerage for the fourth quarter.
The brokerage losses contributed to the company -- one of the biggest trucking and logistics businesses in the U.S. -- delivering lower fourth-quarter profits than analysts had expected. The quarter also saw sluggish growth in the intermodal business, in which freight is transported by truck and rail.
The absence of recent guidance is likely due to the uncertainty in the global economy and the freight industry, said Justin Long, an analyst at financial-services firm Stephens Inc. "I hear from investors that there's definitely an appetite for more detailed guidance for this company," he said.
A spokesman for the company declined to comment beyond the release.
A new CFO would also play a major role in working to sustain the growth of the company's dedicated contract services unit, which handles outsourced trucking services for shipping customers and includes J.B. Hunt's growing last-mile delivery business, said David Vernon, an analyst who covers the rail industry at securities firm Sanford C. Bernstein & Co.
J.B. Hunt shares closed up 0.4% to $112.52 on the Nasdaq Stock Market Friday.
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