DHL Express

DHL Express is part of Deutsche Post AG, a German-registered corporation with headquarters in Bonn, Germany. Under its Deutsche Post & DHL brands, this group provides a range of international services including parcel distribution, express delivery, supply chain management, freight transport and e-commerce solutions. As of 2024, the group is organized into the five following operating segments: Supply Chain, Global Forwarding & Freight, Express, eCommerce, and Post & Parcel Germany. Each of the divisions is managed independently and subdivided into business units, functions, and regions. This dashboard focuses on DHL’s Express division but also reviews the operational performance of the other three divisions to place the relationship between the Express group and the rest.

Figure 1 provides a current overview of the international scope and scale of DHL Express’ operations. DHL Express continues to maintain a robust global network of hubs and focus cities, crucial for its international logistics operations. Key hubs include Cincinnati, Leipzig, Hong Kong, and Bahrain, serving as central points for transcontinental shipments. DHL Express has also enhanced its infrastructure with strategic investments in new facilities and upgrades in focus cities like Miami, Singapore, and London to optimize efficiency and service quality.

Figure 1 – DHL Express Hubs and Focus Cities – 2023

DHL Express has a global network that spans over 220 countries and territories, providing services to 2.7 million customers and employing over 590,000 people. Its fleet of about 250 aircraft makes DHL one of the largest air carriers in the world. DHL has developed a network of airline alliances with 18 owned and partner operators that is very different from the single-operator business models of FedEx or UPS. In the past decade, DHL has expanded its own dedicated air operations by taking more direct control over freighter operations on high-demand routes supplying more reliable capacity and providing shorter delivery times. Its dedicated air freight fleet and over twenty partner airlines operate over 2,400 daily scheduled flights serving more than 500 airports across the world.

Figure 2 – DHL Express Airline Subsidiaries, Affiliates and Subcontractors

In 2023, the DHL Express division saw a revenue decline of 10.1% to €24.8 billion ($26.5 billion), down from €27.6 billion ($29.6 billion) in 2022. Despite the decline, the division maintained a positive EBIT margin of 15.3%, with EBIT decreasing by 5.1% to €3.8 billion ($4.1 billion). B2C volumes declined, primarily driven by global economic instability, while B2B volumes were not only affected by the war in Ukraine but also faced challenges from broader economic conditions. This was compounded by a decrease in freight rates, adverse exchange rate movements, and heightened fuel costs, which together significantly influenced the logistics landscape. The package volumes during the Christmas season of 2023 were also less pronounced than in previous years, with overall volumes not increasing as much as expected. The peak season arrived early and ended quickly, with freight volumes remaining lower than anticipated. However, the division achieved a notable 2% reduction in operational costs, demonstrating its adaptability and resilience in a challenging economic environment. Additionally, the group reported maintaining strong cash flow generation and continued investment in growth areas.

Figure 3 illustrates DHL’s revenue distribution across its four divisions. Historically, DHL’s total revenue was almost evenly divided between segments. However, in 2023, the Post – eCommerce – Parcel (PeP) division represents only 20% of total revenue, down from 25% in 2019. This decrease is attributed to the creation of the eCommerce Solutions division, which DHL launched in 2019 to handle international parcel delivery in Europe, Asia, and the US. By 2023, eCommerce Solutions accounted for approximately 7% of DHL’s revenue.

Figure 3 – Deutsche Post DHL Revenue by Segment 2011 – 2023

Figure 4 illustrates the profit margin development by business division and shows that DHL Express leads with a 13% profit margin in 2023, despite a decline from its post-pandemic peak of 17.4% in 2021. Since exiting the U.S. domestic market, the Express division has consistently outperformed other units. The Global Forwarding & Freight segment saw its profit margin increase to 7.4% in 2023, up from 3.7% in 2020, rising above the PeP division and surpassing Supply Chain margins, which stood at 5.2% and 5.7% respectively. This improvement in the Global Forwarding & Freight segment can be attributed to strong revenue performance, strategic cost management, and focusing on high-margin business areas despite lower volumes and declining freight rates. The newly created eCommerce Solutions division was not included in this figure.

Figure 4 – Deutsche Post DHL Profit Margin (EBIT) by Business Segment 2006 – 2023

Figure 5 shows the revenue distribution of DHL Express by region since 2006. Following the withdrawal from the U.S. domestic market in January 2009, which primarily affected the Americas’ share up to 2010, the distribution of revenue across the regions has shown consistency. Europe has maintained the largest proportion of revenue throughout the period, accounting for 40% of total revenue in 2023, while the Asia-Pacific region consistently held the second-largest share at 32%. The Americas and MEA regions had smaller shares, with the Americas representing 22% and the MEA region representing 6%. The Americas experienced a slight increase in its share of revenue by 2023 while Asia-Pacific saw a similar decrease.​

Figure 5 – DHL Express Revenues by Region 2011 – 2023

DHL Express’s core product is international time-definite shipments (TDI) which provides services with a pre-defined delivery time. The second main product is called time-definite domestic (TDD) and provides domestic services within a country or territory. TDD revenues remain about a tenth of TDI revenues due to lower shipment volumes and a much lower revenue per shipment. TDD is also generally a ground product. Most of the freight capacity owned or purchased by DHL is used for TDI and if something remains, it is sold to other air freight operators and customers with DHL Global Forwarding being the largest buyer of this remaining capacity.

Figure 6 shows the TDI and TDD yield per package. Package yields surged in 2020, peaking in 2022 due to heightened demand for international shipping services during the pandemic. Although this demand has since stabilized, TDI maintains a strong performance at approximately €74.26 per package, buoyed by continued e-commerce strength. Meanwhile, TDD shipments have experienced a more gradual increase, reaching €12.55 per package.

Figure 6 – DHL Express Time Definite International and Domestic Yields 2007 – 2023

Figure 7 displays the development of shipment volumes for the TDI and TDD product lines over time. TDI shipment volumes saw steady growth from 2009 to 2021, peaking at 302 million post-pandemic.  The drop of more than 50% in TDD shipment counts in 2013 reflects the shift of operations in several countries, from the Express unit to the PeP or Global Forwarding units. In the recent years, Blue Dart in India and the domestic express business in the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium, Spain, Portugal and Poland were reassigned from Express to the PeP division while the Sky Courier subsidiary in the United States was transferred to the Global Forwarding/Freight division. DHL ended all domestic operations in China, Canada, Australia and New Zealand between 2011 and 2013; and some or all domestic operations were ended in prior years in the United Kingdom and France.

Figure 7 – DHL Express Shipment Volume by Product Development 2007 – 2023

In 2023, DHL’s shipment volumes for TDI experienced a slight decline, reflecting continued weak market conditions. The daily TDI shipment volumes decreased by 2.7% to 281 million compared to the previous year. However, the company managed to maintain operational efficiency and cost control, which helped mitigate the impact of the volume decline on earnings. TDD also faced a decline, with shipment volumes reaching 123 million.