TAL International Group Inc., the Purchase-based company that leases freight containers to shippers, is feeling the effects of a slumping global economy in which manufactuers around the world are exporting fewer goods.
Chief Executive Officer Brian M. Sondey said that a respectable performance in the first nine months of 2008 deteriorated in the fourth quarter with a sharp drop in economic activity and global trade corresponding to the worsening global financial crisis. The end result for TAL was a fourth-quarter loss.
The outlook was particularly bleak in November and December when “many of our shipping line customers reported substantial decreases in the volume of their container shipments, and this reduced level of trade has continued for the first two months of 2009,” Sondey said in a written statement.
TAL’s results provide a window into the health of a complex global trade system that moves products manufactured overseas to retailers. TAL’s fleet of more than 756,000 freight containers is leased to companies around the world that ship clothes, electronics, appliances, frozen foods, building products, machinery and other goods.
TAL specializes in what is known as intermodal containers that can be easily transferred between ships, rail lines or trucks to provide versatility for shippers.
The company reported a net loss of $15.3 million, or 47 cents a share, during the fourth quarter, compared to net income of $3.4 million, or 10 cents a share, a year earlier. Leasing revenues for the fourth quarter were $83.6 million compared to $77.5 million a year earlier.
Sondey said the outlook is uncertain this year.
“For the full year of 2009, our results will be highly dependent on how long global containerized trade volumes remain at depressed levels,” he said. “A sustained decrease in trade growth will lead to lower utilization, reduced revenue and higher operating expenses for 2009, but we are hopeful that these negative effects of the current market will be temporary.”