UPS CEO David Abney used to claim Amazon is just a good customer - but now he's calling the ecommerce giant a possible rival

UPS CEO David Abney

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UPS CEO David Abney.

  • UPS CEO David Abney has long stated that Amazon is just a customer.
  • In an interview on Thursday with Business Insider, he changed his tone.
  • "It is a combination," Abney told Business Insider. "We monitor them as is if they were a competitor."

UPS CEO David Abney has long hewn to the narrative that Amazon is just another client of the shipping giant.

"They're a good customer of ours," he said last week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. "We work closely together."

In an interview on Thursday with Business Insider, Abney noted much of what he's said in the past, and what its shipping competitor FedEx has also claimed.

"We have a mutual and beneficial relationship," Abney told Business Insider. "We're selective in what packages that we take from Amazon and they do the same thing, and we have found where we have the best value."

Then, Abney made an important admission - for what might be the first time publicly.

"We no longer live in a day where we classify people as customers or competitors," Abney said. "It is a combination. We monitor them as is if they were a competitor."

Read more: FedEx wants to make it clear how little it relies on Amazon

About 10% of UPS' revenue comes from Amazon, Cowen managing director and senior research analyst Helane Becker told Business Insider. Roughly half of all e-commerce sales went through Amazon in 2018, according to eMarketer estimates.

Reports on Amazon signify that the e-commerce juggernaut is interested in significantly expanding its logistics business. Morgan Stanley analysts said that Amazon is on track to have 100 planes by 2025, which does pale in comparison to UPS' chartered or owned fleet of 500-plus cargo aircraft. In the past year, Amazon shipped nearly 4.7 million containers of goods from China to the US in ocean freighters.

ups cargo

Marcio Rodrigo Machado/S3studio/Getty Images

UPS has or charters more than 500 aircraft.

Signs are also showing that Amazon is interested in shipping for others and not just developing an in-house delivery program.

Last week, the company expanded its Amazon Shipping home-delivery service to the New York area. The service nixes weekend fees, fuel surcharges, and other fees that FedEx and UPS place on its goods. (However, some of these fees, like fuel charges, would be complicated to completely nix as they're dependent on factors that neither Amazon nor UPS and FedEx can control.)

Abney underlined that, despite these moves, UPS is a global transportation leader. On Thursday, UPS announced it shipped a record number of packages during the 2018 peak season.

"The scale that we offer, the value that we offer, and the density that we have, we just believe that it's more competitive than what any individual company would be able to offer," Abney said.

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