It's a sign of the times that even one of the most controversial direct mail campaigns of recent years couldn't push up Royal Mail's letter volumes. Good job parcels were looking healthier…
In a trading statement today, Royal Mail said group revenue was up one per cent in the three months to the end of June, although revenues at UKPIL, its UK international parcels and letters delivery business which includes its Parcelforce brands, fell one per cent.
Meanwhile, addressed letter volumes were down two per cent, which pushed revenues in its letters arm down three per cent.
But there was good news too: volumes and revenues in its parcels division both rose two per cent, while both figures in its logistics division, known as GLS, rose 13 per cent, with growth in all its markets.
Shares edged up 0.2 per cent to 503p in early trading.
Why it's interesting
As if trying to compete with the rise of technology wasn't enough, Royal Mail has faced a number of major challenges in recent years, not least a narrow escape from having new pricing rules forced on it by communications watchdog Ofcom in May this year.
You'd have thought being one of the chief beneficiaries of a £9.3m political "propaganda" row (remember those government Brexit leaflets?) would have been good for the company – but it turns out that didn't help much.
"Addressed letter volumes decreased by two per cent (excluding the impact of political parties’ election mailings)," it said.
"This reflected the timing of the return of direct delivery volumes in the prior period and certain mailings associated with the EU referendum. Excluding these one-off impacts, addressed letter volumes declined by around four per cent." Ah.
Still, at least that growth in Europe provided a "touch of glamour", as Nicholas Hyett, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, pointed out. However, he added that the UK business remains "sluggish".
"The UK parcels business isn't growing much, but nor is it in decline; while costs are being very tightly managed.
"The group generates good cash flows and has a healthy balance sheet, underpinned by a substantial London property portfolio."
What Royal Mail said
Moya Greene, its chief executive, said:
In what is traditionally a quieter trading period for the business, we saw no material change in overall trends.
We continue to face the challenges caused by the current low inflationary environment and our highly competitive markets. We remain, however, very focussed on operational and financial efficiency and delivering a high quality service for all our customers.
Solid but dull results from a company which is never knowingly overhyped.