“We now expect fourth-quarter earnings per share on a reported basis to be flat to slightly up, as macroeconomic headwinds impacting the company’s volume are moderating,” Lonegro said. “At the same time, a recent operating property sale will now offset the impact of a debt refinancing charge announced earlier in the quarter. Quarter-to-date volume has declined 3% overall, and many markets are showing more moderate declines than in previous quarters. Coal in particular is showing sequential volume stabilization and is essentially flat in the fourth quarter to date."
With macroeconomic headwinds moderating, Lonegro indicated that total volume is now expected to decline in the low-to-mid single digit range on a comparable 13-week basis, and expected to be flat to slightly up including the extra week that is part of CSX’s 2016 accounting year.
Lonegro also highlighted the results of CSX’s "aggressive efficiency initiatives." Through the third quarter, CSX has delivered about $550 million of cost savings, which includes both efficiency initiatives and volume-related savings. He reinforced CSX’s expectations for full-year 2016 efficiency savings of around $400 million, including about $100 million from structural changes in the coal network, $150 million from normal productivity initiatives, and the balance from key initiatives such as train length which has increased 20% over the past two years.
Looking forward, CSX says it "continues to drive record efficiency. As its business portfolio transitions to more merchandise- and intermodal-centric markets, the company remains focused on providing a consistent, reliable service product for customers, which is critical to drive growth, sustain strong pricing and ultimately create long-term value for shareholders. Becoming the CSX of Tomorrow involves delivering employee and customer excellence that supports shareholder value creation; transforming the network by redeploying investment from low-density lines to the higher-density outer triangle to drive service efficiency and growth; leveraging technology to further improve safety, resource efficiency and service; and delivering service excellence for customers, which enables growth and supports pricing that reflects the value of the CSX service product. All of these initiatives will contribute to achieving a mid-60s operating ratio longer-term."