Thursday, April 17, 2014

For Union Pacific, a strong first quarter

Written by  William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
For Union Pacific, a strong first quarter Union Pacific
Union Pacific on April 17, 2014 reported 2014 first quarter net income of $1.1 billion, or $2.38 per diluted share, compared to $957 million, or $2.03 per diluted share, in first-quarter 2013, a 17% improvement. Operating revenues totaled $5.6 billion, up 7%; operating income totaled $1.85 billion, up 14%; the operating ratio of 67.1% improved 2.0 points, a first-quarter record.

UP’s 7% operating revenue increase compared to $5.3 billion in first-quarter 2013. First quarter business volumes, as measured by total revenue carloads, increased 5% compared to 2013. Volume increased 16% in agricultural products, 10% in industrial products, 3% in coal, and 4% in intermodal. Automotive volume was flat; chemicals volumes were flat vs. 2013 as growth in base chemicals was offset by a reduction in crude oil shipments. Quarterly freight revenue increased 6% compared to first-quarter 2013, driven by volume growth and core pricing gains, UP said.

Quarterly train speed, as reported to the Association of American Railroads, was 24.5 mph, down 7% vs. first-quarter 2013.

“Union Pacific achieved record first quarter financial results, leveraging the strengths of our diverse franchise in the face of challenging weather conditions,” said UP CEO Jack Koraleski. “We’re proud of the efforts of the men and women of Union Pacific, who worked tirelessly to serve our customers despite these weather challenges and helped us achieve such a solid start to the year. As we look forward, we’re watching the economy very closely, as well as the potential impacts of weather, particularly on our coal and grain business. There’s still a lot of year ahead of us, but we are seeing signs of gradual economic improvement, and we’re encouraged by the opportunities it presents. With the power and potential of the UP franchise, we’ll leverage these opportunities to drive record financial performance and shareholder returns this year and in the years to come.”

“While UP’s volumes increased 4.9% in the quarter, average revenue per carload was only up by a modest 1.1%, due largely to revenue mix and a change in how UP accounts for some auto part business,” observed Cowen and Company Managing Director and Railway Age Contributing Editor Jason Seidl. “Core pricing, excluding legacy, was 2%, in line with the fourth-quarter 2013 result, and we believe upside to this pricing level will stem from potential intermodal rate increases.”

“UP became the third Class I railroad to note an improved macro environment after CSX and KCS,” noted Seidl. “This represents a continuation of the positive momentum the carriers had noted on their fourth-quarter 2013 earnings calls. The first-quarter 2014 favorable macro commentary is also consistent with the positive findings of our recent 1Q14 Rail Shipper Survey and what we are seeing in the truckload market, which is experiencing a volume recovery, coupled with a capacity crunch. While the capacity issue is partly attributable to the first quarter’s weather disruptions, we believe a good deal of it is due to intensifying driver shortages and hours-of-service regulations. Accordingly, the truckload rate recovery is sustainable and should help drive the shift to rail intermodal and support higher intermodal rates.”