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."
Citing its growing role in "green business" opportunities, Canadian National notes it is playing a key role in the transportation of huge windturbine components to northeastern British Columbia. CN Specialized Services (CNSS) says it recently completed the first-ever rail move of twin-pack wind turbine blades from German manufacturer Enercon GmbH and Salco Energy Services Inc. of Calgary. Enercon is a global manufacturer of wind turbine systems; Salco Energy offers wind turbine transport and wind park logistics management.
CN says 51 sets of twin-pack blades are being installed in the 102 MW Bear Mountain Wind Park in Dawson Creek, British Columbia. When completed, the Bear Mountain installation will have 34 Enercon E-82 3.0 MW wind turbines that will generate enough clean, renewable electricity to power most of the province's South Peace Region. The project is on schedule to become British Columbia's first fully operational wind park by the end of the year.
CNSS received the wind turbine blades, measuring 135 feet in length, at the Port of Thunder Bay, Ont., in early May, and arranged for rail car modifications forthe move. Six trains were required to transport the equipment from Thunder Bay to Dawson Creek over CN's network. At the receiving end, CNSS provided services for unloading the equipment for transportation to the wind farm. Dan Bingeman, CN assistant vice-president, said: "The logistics of moving the turbine components were a challenge, but that is what CN and CNSS do best. And we are well positioned to support this important emerging market on accountof our extensive network reach, port connections on three coasts, expertise, and complete transportation solutions." CN says it serves the main wind farm regions of Canada, from Nova Scotia toBritish Columbia, and also the U.S. Midwest. CN says wind turbine componentsare one of its growing sustainable energy business segments, which include environmentallyfriendly wood pellets for energy generation, biodiesel and ethanol. "CN, as a railway, can help address the challenge of climate change,"said Bruno Demers, director of marketing for CN. "Rail emits six timesless greenhouse gases (GHG) than heavy trucks. Plus, rail consumes a fractionof the fuel to transport one [metric] ton of freight one kilometer.”
Downers Grove, Ill.-based Hub Group Inc. Wednesday reported its second-quarter profit fell 45% due to weakness in all of its transport sectors.
Revenue from truck brokerage and intermodal segments—both involving freight rail—each fell 28%; Hub Group’s logistics sales revenue declined 9%. Total revenue fell 26% to $363 million, compared with $491 million in the second quarter of 2008; analysts had anticipated revenue of $387.5 million.
But earnings beat analyst consensus expectations of 21 cents per share. The company said it earned $8.3 million, or 22 cents per share, in the second quarter, compared with $15 million, or 40 cents per share, in the comparable quarter a year ago.
London-based DeltaRail Group Ltd. has been awarded a contract by MTA Metro-North Railroad to supply the regional rail carrier with the WheelChex® wheel impact load measuring system, to be installed this summer through the four-track Park Avenue Tunnel leading to and from Grand Central Terminal in New York.
WheelChex will be linked to Metro-North's maintenance systems so that the company can benefit from regular and consistent information on wheel condition. The tunnel handles the vast majority of Metro-North trains.
The Association of American Railroads Wednesday released its June 2009 Rail Time Indicators economic report, and also launched a new online video summary of the June report. AAR notes the report combines rail traffic data with more than 15 key U.S. economic indicators, including consumer confidence, housing starts, and industrial production, in a non-technical snapshot of how rail traffic data reflects the broader U.S. economy.
"We wanted to pull together the best information from not only the freight rail industry, but also other key economic indicators," said AAR Senior Vice President of Policy and Economics John Gray. "We think the report offers a convenient, clear look at trends that may reveal where the overall economy and freight rail traffic are going."
AAR also launched a monthly video summary of the report, presented by a member of the association's policy and economics team.
AAR’s video highlights trends from the data on the 19 major commodities that AAR tracks in the Rail Time Indicators report. For example, this month, the video examines the impact the U.S. domestic economy is having on the freight rail movement of motor vehicles and equipment, metallic ores, and metals.
"At the end of the day, if people aren't building or buying things, freight rail traffic feels the effects," Gray added. "We thought that a video summary would be a more accessible way to introduce the data to a broader audience."
Both the written report and its video component summary are available for viewing at www.aar.org.
Between June 2008 and June 2008, Class I railroad employment in all categories declined 8.45% to 149,614, a loss of 15,685 jobs. Hardest hit was the transportation (train and engine) category, where the numbers dropped by 13,305 to 55,434, a 17.45% loss.
In other categories, employment of executives, officials, and staff assistants was down 0.02% from a year ago to 10,047; professional and administrative, down 3.13% to 13,276; maintenance of way and structures, down 0.72% to 35,382; and maintenance of equipment and stores, off 5.37% to 28,619.
The transportation (other than train and engine) group showed the only year-to-year increase, with numbers up 3.46% to 6,856.
Total June 2009 employment was down 1.27% from May 2009.
The Surface Transportation Board released the latest employment figures on Wednesday.
New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority is struggling with physical obstacles and financial constraints as it pursues construction of both the Second Avenue Subway (phase 1) and its Long Island Rail Road East Side Access (ESA) project to Grand Central Terminal.
MTA reportedly has completed an analysis of the projects’ respective work schedules and budgets. Based on that, the completion date for the $4.4 billion first phase of the Second Avenue Subway, running from 96th Street to 59th Street, has been extended from June 2015 to at least December 2016, and more likely the summer of 2017.
East Side Access, designed to give LIRR a second Manhattan terminal to better serve riders headed to and from Manhattan’s East Side without transferring to or from subway service, would commence operations in September 2016, instead of February 2015.
Given the tortured history of the Second Avenue Subway, a project that has struggled to become reality for decades, reaction to the news was muted. "It will not come as shock to the American people that the Second Ave. subway is behind schedule," said Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign, a New York-based advocacy group. Russianoff added sympathetically, “It's a big complicated project. I think part of this is bowing to the economic realities of what money is available and when."
The $6.3 billion East Side Access project, combined with the$4.4 billion Second Avenue Subway effort, accounts for more than two-thirds of the $15 billion targeted by MTA Capital Construction for five major projects. One of the five, the $500 million rehabilitation of the South Ferry Terminal subway stop in lower Manhattan, opened in March.
The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, representing 340 train engineers at VIA Rail Canada that are members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), has given notice to Canada’s intercity railroad that its members could go on strike July 24, forcing cancelation of passenger train service.
VIA Rail reportedly already has begun canceling some of its long-distance trains as a cautionary measure, and said that all trains would be canceled at noon Friday if a settlement with the union is not reached. Trains on the Sudbury-White River and Victoria-Courtenay routes will remain in service, as they are operated by third parties on VIA’s behalf.
A mediator has been appointed to assist in the negotiations and VIA Rail is “hopeful that an agreement will be reached before the set deadline,” the railroad said Tuesday.
TCRC says its members have been without a contract since Dec. 31, 2006. At issue are improved wages and benefits, scheduling that allows members two consecutive days off, and increased training schedules for engineers. “Many of the issues related to what we're trying to achieve here are quality-of-life issues,” TCRC President Dan Shewchuk said.