Wilmerdering, Pa.-based Wabtec Corp. said Friday itssecond-quarter profit slipped 9% due to the continuing falloff in freight rail traffic;earnings of $30.8 million, or 64 cents per share, were down from $33.8 million,or 69 cents per share, in the comparable 2008 quarter. That was lower than WallStreet analyst expectations of 62 cents per share.
Revenue also declined by 14% to $334 million. Wabtec cut itsfull-year earnings guidance, citing the weak freight rail market. Companyshares lost 5% of their value at midday Friday.
"Going forward this year, we expect stability in ourtransit operations, while the freight businesses will continue to be affectednegatively by the global recession," Wabtec CEO Albert J. Neupaver said ina statement.
Kansas City Southern Friday announced David R. Ebbrecht, its vice president-transportation, will assume the role of senior vice president operations for Kansas City Southern de Mexico, SA de CV (KCSM).
Based in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, south of Laredo, Tex., Ebbrecht will report to KCSM President and Executive Representative Jose G. Zozaya, closely coordinating with KCS Executive Vice President and COO Scott E. Arvidson.
"In his previous role, Dave has proven his ability to execute effective change management with a systemwide implementation of an operating methodology focused on sustainable, measurable operating results," said Arvidson in a statement. "We look forward to the implementation of this methodology on KCSM, with a goal of achieving continuous operating performance improvements, greater synergies, and economies of scale between the two railroads.""Our ability to enhance operating performance on both sides of the border will strengthen KCSM and KCSR's crossborder network and soldify our position as a world class, international rail network," said Zozaya.
Former KCSM Senior Vice President-Operations William H. Nolen has accepted a new position as executive representative for KCS. Based in Laredo, Tex., he will report to KCS President and COO David L. Starling. "In this new role, Bill will be in a position to lend his railroad expertise to a variety of special projects for KCSR, KCSM, and Panama Canal Railway Co.," said Starling.
Hamel, Minn.-based Loram Maintenance of Way Inc. said it has logged more than 4 million man-hours, over a 2 ½-year span, without a “lost-time injury,” with the injury-free span still growing.
The accomplishment complements Loram’s recent receipt of the the 2009 Minnesota Governor’s Award for Safety. Loram has received this award in 13 of the last 14 years. It also has ben honored with the 2008, 2007, 2005, and 2004 Gold NRC award for safety, a First Place Safety Award from NRC in 2000, and a 97% score in 2008 from a Liberty Mutual Insurance safety audit, reportedly the highest safety score ever obtained by a company in this audit.
U.S. freight traffic continued to struggle for the week ended July 18, the Association of American Railroads reported, down 17.9% compared with the comparable week in 2008. AAR did note, however, that rail carloadings were at their highest level in 15 weeks. Intermodal volume of 189,541 trailers or containers also fell 18.8% from the comparable week last year. Total volume of 28.7 billion ton-miles was down 17.3%.
Seventeen of the 19 carload freight commodity groups were down from last year. Farm products other than grain gained 19.8% compared with year-ago levels.
Canadian railroads reported volume down 24.4% from year-ago levels, while intermodal fell 22.3%. Mexican rail freight volume slipped 7.3%, while intermodal dropped 21.1%.
Combined North American rail volume for the first 28 weeks of 2009 on 14 reporting U.S., Canadian, and Mexican railroads was down 19.9%. Intermodal fell a comparable 17.1% during the same period compared with 2008 levels.
Crediting cost control measures and lower fuel prices, BNSF Thursday reported second-quarter earnings rose to $404 million, or $1.18 per diluted share, compared to second-quarter 2008 earnings of $350 million, or $1.00 per diluted share. The 2008 earnings figures included a $0.31 per share charge related to environmental matters in Montana. Earnings results soundly surpassed analysts' earnings-per-share expectations of $1.00.
BNSF said operating expenses for the quarter declined $1.25 billion, or 33%, to $2.52 billion, compared with second-quarter 2008 operating expenses of $3.76 billion. The $1.25 billion reduction was primarily attributable to strong cost controls, decreased unit volumes, and lower fuel prices.
Freight revenue fell $1.13 billion, or 26%, to $3.22 billion in the quarter compared with $4.35 billion in the prior-year period. BNSF attributed the decline in part to a decrease in fuel surcharges of about $600 million. The remaining variance was due to lower unit volumes as a result of the economic downturn, partially offset by improved yields.
“BNSF had another strong quarter of cost control in an extremely difficult economic environment,” said BNSF Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer Matthew K. Rose (pictured at right).
“We are beginning to see BNSF’s volumes stabilize in our more economic sensitive businesses, and because of our continued focus on productivity combined with our long-term market opportunities, we are well positioned to benefit when the economy recovers," Rose said.
Morgan Stanley & Co. analysts William Greene
and Adam Longson
said BNSF's second quarter results tell a a “solid story”: “Earnings surpassed our expectations, even when adjusted for
one-time items, and the degree of cost volume variability displayed in
recent quarters is impressive.” However, there may be somewhat less room for improvement, compared to other Class I's: “We expect BNSF pricing to trail other rails given
its larger relative exposure to truck competitive traffic. Moreover,
volumes are unlikely to recover as much as other rails on any rebound
in auto production given limited auto exposure, previous customer wins
and volume outperformance, and the loss of Hub Group traffic.”
Norfolk Southern CEO Wick Moorman tolda House subcommittee Thursday that tax incentives to expand freight rail capacity would generate $1 billion in economic benefits and 20,000 green jobs.
“America needs more transportation capacity and needs it now,” Moorman said in testimony presented on behalf of the Association of American Railroads.
Asserting that today’s transportation network is not designed to handle the doubled freight demand projected by 2035, Moorman (pictured at left) said railroads are "the most affordable and environmentally responsible way to meet this demand."
He noted that railroads spent arecord $10.2 billion in capital improvements last year alone, adding: “Since 1980, railroads have spent more than 40% of their revenues–some$440 billion–to maintain, improve, and expand their networks. “Yet as much as railroads are investing, it isn’t enough to meet projected demand," Moorman said.
Moorman said recent study found a $52 billion gap between the $148 billion needed for expanding freight railcapacity and the $96 billion railroads can expect to generate. Tax incentives “provide a sensible way to help bridge this gap,” he said.
“Numerous states are partnering with us,” Moorman said. “Thanks to the leadership of Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, and others, we are already investing to expand our system to meet the looming demands of moving our nation’s commerce. Congress should bolster these efforts by enacting tax credit legislation to encourage additional freight rail investment,” he said.
With customers cutting their fleets and pressing for price breaks, GATX Leasing Corp. on Thursday reported a 68% drop in second quarter earnings and revised its forecast for 2009 earnings from $2.50 to $2.00 per share.
Second-quarter income was $12.7 million, or 27 cents per share, vs. analyst expectations of 40 cents for the rail and marine equipment lessor.
"In Rail, customers continue to trim their rail fleets and seek the most competitive rates when renewing leases,” said GATX President and CEO Brian A Kenney. “GATX is competing aggressively to maintain fleet utilization while selectively shortening the term of renewals to position the fleet to benefit from a stronger market in the future."
On June 3, GATX had approximately111,000 cars in its North American fleet. Utilization was 96.0% compared to 96.5% to the end of the first quarter and 97.9% at the beginning of the year.
Debunking the oft-made claim that light rail transit systems “steal” riders from existing bus operations, and therefore offers little public benefit, North Carolina's Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) Thursday disclosed survey results finding that 72% of Lynx LRT riders are new to public transportation and hadn't used buses before.
Among those riders surveyed who previously had traveled by means other than a single-occupant vehicle, 21% of Lynx passengers previously rode a bus, while another 6% either used a CATS vanpool or another form of carpooling.
CATS hired an outside marketing firm to survey nearly 1,000 rail riders in December and January, in an effort to determine the system’s customer market and the reasons people chose to ride LRT.
The survey found that the average Lynx rider's householdincome is $65,000, compared with $55,200 for an express bus rider and $31,800 for a regular bus rider. The median county household income is $62,241, according to CATS.
Union Pacific Corp. Thursday said its second-quarter profit was better than expected despite lower freight volumes and revenue, and said the economy appears to have stabilized.
UP net income of $468 million, or 92 cents per share, was down 12% from the second quarter of 2008, when it notched $531 million, or $1.02 per share. Excluding a one-time benefit from a $72 million land sale, UP reported earnings per share of 78 cents, better than the consensus estimate of 74 cents anticipated by Wall Street.
Quarterly revenue fell to $3.30 billion from $4.57 billion in the comparable 2008 period; analysts had expected $3.38 billion. Freight volume fell 22% during the quarter, UP said.
“Although we expect it will be some time before the economy recovers," Chief Executive Jim Young (pictured at right) said, "it appears that volume levels may have hit the bottom as the economy seems to have stabilized.”
New York-based investment bank Dahlman Rose & Co.concurs. In a note July 24, the company said, “Although the economy will likelyprovide near-term challenges for Union Pacific, the railroad has clearly showedus its ability to truly weather the storm. Indeed, once freight levelseventually return, UNP has ample capacity to take them on without spendingsignificant excess capital. We continue to believe that the company’s trueoperating ratio lies somewhere south of 70% in a more normalized economicenvironment. Accordingly, we reiterate our Buy rating on the company’s shares.”
Said Morgan Stanley & Co. analysts William Greene and Adam Longson: “Consistentwith our forecast for an auto-led volume rebound in 2H09, UP management firmlyreiterated recent comments from other rails that volumes have likelybottomed. Having some of the easiest volume comparisons among the railsin 3Q and a large auto franchise, we believe that UP could post one ofthe better volume recoveries later this year as auto productionrebounds.
"Furthermore, new intermodal volumes from Hub Group shouldramp through 2H09 and further boost volumes. As these volume trends play out, we expect earnings revisions to improve across the rails, but at UP in particular. We expect much of UP's recentproductivity gains achieved in the downturn to be sustained as volumesrebound, driving substantial operating leverage. Management has notedthe company could easily add 10% more volume without adding anothertrain start.
"We expect UP to outperform," Morgan Stanley said. "We aresignificantly above consensus on 2010 EPS ($4.65 vs. $4.30) even thoughwe assume a tepid rebound and pricing slows materially. UP is particularly leveraged to an auto-led rebound and has easy 2H09 and 1H10 comps. In our view, UNP has the potential for large productivity gains and recent results confirm management is executing."