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(Reuters) -Dutch postal group PostNL's third-quarter core profit came in below analysts' expectations partly as a result of supply chain disruptions and slower growth in its parcels business, sending the company's shares down sharply.
Postal operators, which benefited from a surge in online shopping under coronavirus lockdowns, are now seeing their parcel volumes return to more normal levels as restrictions have eased in most European countries.
PostNL, which delivers parcels and letters across Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, said volume in its Parcels business continued to grow, but as expected "this growth was slower due to the reopening of non-essential stores and more people going on holiday, as well as some headwind from disruptions in global supply chains."
At 0928 GMT, PostNL's stock was down more than 3%, after losing as much as 6.7% in early trade.
"Market impacts like the global supply chain disruptions make it difficult for large customers to robustly forecast volumes, increasing the level of uncertainty at PostNL as well," analysts at KBC securities said.
"For Q4 we might even see a decline in volumes, leading to parcel results that could be considerably down again," Kepler Cheuvreux analyst Andre Mulder said.
PostNL, reported normalised earnings before interest and taxation (EBIT) of 23 million euros ($26.57 million) in its third quarter, including 8 million euros negative impact from new European value added tax (VAT) regulation. In 2019, the group's third quarter EBIT was 26 million euros.
Analysts had expected on average a normalised EBIT of 24 million euros.
Under the new EU rules in force since July, VAT is now charged for all online purchases regardless of their value.
"In the third quarter of the year, the changes in VAT for small goods outside the EU and other regulation in China had a stronger temporary negative impact on international volumes than anticipated, and put pressure on the performance of both Parcels and Mail in the Netherlands," Chief Executive Herna Verhagen said in a statement.
PostNL's Parcels division's EBIT came in at 27 million euros, (+1.6% year-on-year), below an analyst consensus of 39 million.
Growth in e-commerce picked up later in the quarter and is expected to continue, the company said, "with some uncertainty related to Covid-19 and the changes in VAT regulation."
Its smaller Dutch mail business missed analysts' revenue estimates of 358 million euros.
PostNL confirmed its guidance for 280-310 million euros in normalised EBIT for 2021, which it had raised in August as it benefited from a sustained boom in e-commerce under extended coronavirus lockdowns.
($1 = 0.8655 euros)
(Reporting by Dagmarah Mackos. Editing by Jane Merriman)