APL, Ltd.

Modern life is characterized by an accelerating rate of change. Nowhere is this more true than in the business world. The business environment is seeing increasing trends towards globalization of markets, shorter lives for competitive advantages, ever shifting alliances, quests for profitable business niches, brutal price competition, and changing government regulations. With all the emphasis placed on new inventions, it is easy to forget that modern civilization rests on some ancient forms of human activity, such as agriculture, trading, and transport. APL, Ltd. provides a fascinating glimpse into a transportation company that has been at turns a pioneer in Pacific Rim trade, a bulwark of military support through five wars, an innovator in domestic transportation, and finally, a casualty of a changing business and regulatory environment. In the final analysis, APL failed to provide a sufficient differentiation in the quality of its service to offset higher operating costs incurred by conforming to the restrictions placed on U.S.-flag carriers. The people and some of the spirit will carry on in the company's new life as a subsidiary of Singapore based Neptune Orient Lines, but part of America will die when the merger is complete. This paper provides a comprehensive look at APL, Ltd. as an individual firm, in relation to its competitors, and as part of the ocean freight transportation industry. Financial ratios are used to measure the financial health and business success of the company, its competitors, and the industry. The company's financial statements are analyzed in detail, and the veil of accounting conventions removed in some cases. APL is a company that has been fighting for its life. The evidence is that it was losing that fight. Revenues and market share have been on the decline. The company has been creating short-term profits by selling assets and eliminating staff. The basis for future profits has been weakened. The management has done a remarkable job for its shareholders in obtaining a bid with a large premium for their shares. It can only be hoped that APL's customers and employees fare as well.