BERLIN (BLOOMBERG) – Deutsche Post reported record earnings as its DHL express-delivery arm benefited from a surge in home shopping spurred by the coronavirus crisis.

Earnings before interest and taxes jumped 17 per cent to €4.84 billion (S$7.81 billion) in 2020, according to a statement Tuesday, beating analyst forecasts and prompting Deutsche Post to predict further gains in profit this year and next.

“We had the perfect finish to the year,” chief financial officer Melanie Kreis said on a call with reporters, adding that record cash flow will enable the company to invest more for future growth.

A shift toward online purchases has accelerated during the pandemic as people are forced to stay home and many shops close or go bust. Demand was strongest before Christmas as consumers were caught out by renewed lockdowns, while businesses are also sending more goods and documents, the German company said.

“Better earnings should be here for a while,” Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Daniel Roeska said in a note, labelling the group’s express and German parcels businesses “star segments”.

A lack of airline belly space following a near grounding of passenger flights will continue this year, according to chief executive officer Frank Appel. That gives Deutsche Post an edge as it has both an express delivery service with a fleet of more than 260 cargo planes and is a freight forwarder, with both units benefiting from synergies between their operations.

The good results led the company to announce a new order for eight Boeing 777 freighters worth more than US$2.8 billion at list prices. Coupled with a previous order, that means the company will take delivery of four new 777F aircraft this year and a further four in both 2022 and 2023. The company has an option to add a further four after that.

Deutsche Post will report more detailed earnings figures on March 9.

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