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Postal service cuts losses, says it still needs help

By Todd Shields and Bernard Kohn
Bloomberg News

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The U.S. Postal Service said it cut its annual loss by more than two-thirds and increased revenue for the first time since 2008, while standing by warnings that it needs help from Congress to survive.

“The path is not sustainable,” Chairman Mickey Barnett said Friday at a postal board meeting in Washington. “We don’t want to add to the government’s fiscal crisis, but that’s the direction we’re headed in.”

The loss for the year ended Sept. 30 was $5 billion, $1 billion less than service officials had projected and down from a $15.9 billion loss a year earlier. Operating revenue was $66 billion compared with $65.2 billion in 2012, according to a news release. Package and standard mail volume grew as most-profitable first-class mail dropped.

The operating loss was $1 billion, Chief Financial Officer Joseph Corbett said.

Barnett said the service still needs legislation that would, among other things, alter a retiree health-care obligation of $5.6 billion a year that accounts for most of the losses. The service must account for the requirement on its books even though it has defaulted on the payment for the past two years.

First-class mail revenue dropped $704 million, or 2.4 percent, as volume fell 2.8 billion pieces, or 4.1 percent.

The service has enough cash to cover nine days of operating expenses, Corbett said.

“We’re losing money,” he said. “We have a razor-thin cushion.”

Postmaster General Patrick Dona­hoe last month asked regulators for permission to raise stamp prices by more than the inflation rate as part of a series of moves to cut costs and add revenue.

The service in August began offering free insurance and day-specific shipping on package delivery, where it competes with United Parcel Service Inc. and FedEx Corp., and last week announced a deal with Amazon.com Inc. to deliver the online retailer’s packages on Sundays in certain cities.


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