Amidst preparations to be acquired by Berkshire Hathaway Inc., BNSF Thursday announced its fourth-quarter and full-year 2009 earnings and revenue. Quarterly earnings were $536 million, or $1.55 per diluted share, which included a tax benefit of 25 cents per share related to a fourth-quarter donation.
Those earnings were down 12.8%, or 23 cents per share, from the comparable fourth quarter 2008 earnings of $1.78 per diluted share. But the results still beat analyst estimates of an adjusted profit of $1.22 per share on anticipated revenue of $3.62 billion. Actual fourth-quarter revenue of $3.7 billion was down 15.8% from the comparable quarter in 2008, less severe a decline than the full-year 2009 operating revenue of $14 billion, down $4 billion or about 22% from $18 billion for 2008.
Full-year 2009 earnings were $5.01 per diluted share, compared to full year 2008 earnings reported at $6.06 per diluted share.
“We have seen some improvement in volumes during the second half of 2009 and expect this gradual improvement to continue,” Burlington Northern Chairman, President, and CEO Matt Rose said in a statement. “BNSF will continue to position itself to meet demand consistent with the pace of the economic recovery. And as we look forward into 2010, we are preparing to become part of the Berkshire Hathaway family, pending shareholder approval in February.”
BNSF Railway has unveiled its planned 2010 capital commitment program of $2.4 billion, which it says is approximately $240 million lower than 2009. BNSF attributes the reduction of roughly 9% primarily to fewer expected locomotive acquisitions in 2010.
BNSF currently expects to spend about $2.1 billion for track, signal systems, structures, and freight cars, and to upgrade technologies, including the unfunded mandate for Positive Train Control approved by Congress in late 2008. BNSF anticipates also acquiring approximately 170 locomotives at a cost of about $320 million.
“For 2010, BNSF currently expects to invest approximately $2.4 billion to ensure our infrastructure remains strong and to improve the efficiency of our operations,” said BNSF Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer Matt Rose (pictured at left).
“Similar to 2009, we remain committed to making the necessary investments to protect and grow the value of our franchise despite an uncertain economic environment,” Rose said.
Chicago-based GATX Corp. said Thursday it struggled through the "weakest rail market in decades," as it recorded earnings of $21.5 million, or 45 cents per share, for the fourth quarter. That was down 25.6% from $28.9 million, or 58 cents per share, GATX notched in the comparable quarter of 2008. Revenue fell 6.5% to $302.5 million from $323.7 million a year ago.
GATX said the latest quarter included a tax benefit of 15 cents per share, and a loss on interest rate swaps of 5 cents per share. Excluding those items, the company logged earnings per share of 35 cents, roughly in line with analyst estimates of 36 cents per share based on anticipated revenue of $281.7 million.
President and CEO Brian A. Kenney noted 4.1% remains underutilized at present.
Shares of GATX fell roughly 5% in early Thursday trading, but were recovering during early afternoon activity, trading down 3.7%.
Text messaging by a Metrolink engineer was the primary cause of the deadly crash with a Union Pacific freight train in Chatsworth, Calif., on Sept. 12, 2008, the National Transportation Safety Board said Thursday.
NTSB found that human frailty, and not any malfunction of railroad signaling, was to blame for the incident, which killed 25 and injured more than 100.
"Tragically, an instant message turned an ordinary commute into a catastrophe," said Deborah Hersman, NTSB chairman.
NTSB’s findings come despite testimony by some suggesting that the Metrolink train was cleared to proceed. "All recorded data and physical evidence in this accident are consistent with the Metrolink train failing to stop at the red signal at Topanga and continuing along the main track reserved for the Union Pacific train," said Wayne Workman, NTSB’s chief investigator for the accident.
The incident spurred Congress to pass legislation in October 2008 mandating the installation of Positive Train Control on large portions of the U.S. railroad network, including most lines where freight and passenger trains share rights-of-way.
Jeffrey R. Moreland has been nominated by President Obama to serve on Amtrak’s Board of Directors, as the President attempts to fill four vacancies on the nine-member board.
Moreland, an attorney, was BNSF’s executive vice president for public affairs prior to his 2007 retirement. He also served as a BNSF lobbyist and as its general counsel. Prior to joining BNSF predecessor Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway in 1978, Moreland was an attorney with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Moreland must be confimed by the Senate, along with two other nominees, Anthony R. Coscia and Bert DiClemente, both of whom were namedby the President last November. Coscia is chairman of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey. DiClemente is a commercial real estate executive who was an aide to then-U.S. Sen. Joe Biden, now the Vice President.
Union Pacific Corp. Thursday said its fourth-quarter profit fell 17% as volume declined 5%, with net income totaling $551 million, of $1.08 per share. UP notched $661 million, or $1.31 per share, in the fourth quarter of 2008. Revenue fell 12 percent to $3.75 billion from $4.29 billion.
But the largest U.S. Class I railroad’s earnings per share beat Wall Street estimates of $1.04 by four cents. Analysts had anticipated quarterly revenue of $3.78 billion.
“Union Pacific's fourth-quarter earnings reflected the continued impact of the recession that began in 2008,” Chairman and CEO Jim Young said. UP has 4,200 employees furloughed, and 44,000 railcars and 1,600 locomotives stored. Freight revenue again fell across all six of its main businesssegments even though volume improved slightly in its intermodal,agricultural, and automotive sectors.
Young said the economic picture for 2010 looks somewhat more favorable than last year, though the railroad did not provide earnings guidance. UP’s capital expenditures for 2010 are expected to be $2.5 billion (largely in line with 2009), including $200 million allocated for PTC. UP said it would try to put the cost of PTC to chemical shippers, whichare going to require the bulk of the PTCcompliance expenses. Additionally, the railroad expects to spend $150 million of its capital budget on its new Joliet Intermodal Terminal, which is intended to facilitate the conversion of more business from highway to rail.
“Like its eastern counterpart CSX, UP spoke out against current rail legislation (STB reauthorization, a draft of which was recently releaed by the Senate Commerce Committee) and warned that it would cut capital expenditures if costs cannot be recouped,” commented Dahlman Rose & Company Director-Equity Research and Railway Age Contributing Editor Jason Seidl. ”UP believes that the rail bill needs to focus on the railroads’ ability to earn proper returns. We believe that this newly expressed criticism may stem from the company’s belief that some of the recent political events may present a favorable environment for resuscitating opposition to the bill or allow the rail industry to lobby for a new tax credit. In fact, recent events may push the actual passage of rail legislation to 2011 as it does not rank high on the proverbial totem pole on Capital Hill.”
The bistate Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) says it will spend $12 million to improve its transit hubs in Camden, including $3 million for the Walter Rand Transportation Center in downtown Camden, which serves both DRPA’s PATCO rapid transit line, which ties New Jersey points to Philadelphia, and New Jersey Transit’s RiverLINE diesel light rail transit (DLRT) service, as well as NJT buses.
Construction is set to commence late this year or early in 2011.Roughly $9 million would be applied for unspecified transit-oriented development around Camden’s Broadway and City Hall PATCO stations, both of which are underground.
DRPA says the goal is to attract businesses to the city, considered by many to be among the most beleaguered urban area within the Garden State."This gives Camden a very significant step up to becoming again the vital municipality it once was and can again become," said John Matheussen, chief executive officer of the DRPA. "And transit is key to these kinds of developments."
Bombardier Transportation said Thursday it has received an order from the Hungarian State Railway company, MÁV, for 25 Bombardier TRAXX P 160 AC Locomotives, with an option for 25 more. The contract is worth approximately $112 million. Delivery of the first locomotive is scheduled for spring 2011.
According to MÁV, the locomotives, which operate with alternating current (AC), are intended for passenger service in Hungary as well as for cross-border transport to Austria and Germany.
Said MAV-TRAKCIO Co. CEO Dr. Imre Markus, “Our locomotive investment project and the purchase of the new TRAXX locomotives are very important for achieving better energy efficiency within our fleet and replacing older locomotives. The new locomotives will contribute to the modernization and energy effectiveness of the Hungarian railways. They will enable MÁV-TRAKCIÓ Co. to reduce maintenance costs and continue to fulfill more contractual obligations for international corridors.”
Åke Wennberg, president of the Locomotives and Equipment Division of Bombardier Transportation, said: “The TRAXX locomotive isproving itself superbly in the market. There are currently around 800 TRAXX locomotivesin service in Europe alone. We are very pleased that MÁV too, has now placedits trust in our electric locomotives, and that we can therefore contribute tothe further development of passenger rail transport in Hungary.”
Final assemblyof the AC locomotives for MÁV will take place at the Bombardier plant in Kassel,Germany. The car bodies will be produced at Bombardier’s site in Wrocław,Poland, the bogies in Siegen, Germany, and the bogie frames in our Hungariansite of Mátranovák. The Mannheim and Hennigsdorf sites, in Germany, will supplythe propulsion and controls technology as well as the propulsion equipment.
Madrid-based CAF (Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles, SA) says it is working to address problems involving loose bolts in Pittsburgh’s light rail vehicle fleet, operated by the Port Authority of Allegheny County (Pennsylvania).