Norfolk Southern Corp. Tuesday said its first-quarter net income was $177 million, or 47 cents per diluted share, compared with $291 million, or 76 cents per diluted share, for the first quarter of 2008. Operating revenue fell 22%, to $1.9 billion compared with the first-quarter of 2008, mostly due to a 20% decline in traffic, as well as lower fuel-related revenue.
Wall Street analysts had expected a profit of 54 cents per share, and traders punished NS shares in Tuesday after-market activity, as well as during regular session trading early Wednesday. By day's end, however, shares of the Class I railroad, at one point down almost 10% less than 24 hours earlier, closed almost unchanged, down just 5 cents.
Railway operating expenses for the quarter were $1.6 billion, down 19% from the comparable period a year ago. NS’s operating ratio rose to 80.3%, up from 76.9% in the first quarter of 2008.
“Current economic conditions were clearly reflected in Norfolk Southern's first-quarter results," said Norfolk Southern CEO Wick Moorman in a statement. "We are responding by aggressively controlling costs, while enhancing our service and continuing to invest in projects that will drive future growth. This approach will position us to participate in the economy's eventual recovery as we tightly manage the company in the face of an ongoing reduction in railway traffic volumes."
Shares of NS fell roughly $1, or about 2.7%, in morning trading Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange, recovering from a steep plunge during after-market trading Tuesday evening, and by afternoon trading NS shares were up more than 3%.
Dahlman Rose & Co. analysts Wednesday noted, "Many investors were expecting strong numbers out of the company given the better-than-anticipated results" announced earlier by both CSX and Canadian National.
In a conference call with analysts Tuesday, Moorman said Norfolk Southern foresees "significant pressure" on second-quarter performance, but also expects declines to approach the bottom during the period, with modest improvement possible in 2009's second half.
On Thursday, Dahlman Rose had a few more-optimistic things to say:
"Pricing remains VERY strong: Average revenue per carload (ARC) was down 2% in 1Q as an 8%+ gain in pure pricing somewhat offset a significant drop in fuel surcharge revenues ($94 million versus $320 million in 1Q:08) and a $40 million negative mix impact. These results were particularly impressive given the pressure that is being placed on eastern domestic intermodal business by the trucking sector. Pricing Remains VERY Strong. Average revenue per carload (ARC) was down 2% in 1Q as an 8%+ gain in pure pricing somewhat offset a significant drop in fuel surcharge revenues ($94 million versus $320 million in 1Q:08) and a $40 million negative mix impact. These results were particularly impressive given the pressure that is being placed on eastern domestic intermodal business by the trucking sector.
"Taking cautious steps and controlling costs: NS continues to store locomotives with fewer than 150 being stored as of January 2009 and now approaching 400 in April. The number of railway employees has also declined with a 4.2% drop since November 2008. During the first quarter of 2009, NS did not repurchase any shares of common stock and management stated they will not do so until the economy improves. The company ended the quarter with $884 million in cash and cash equivalents.
"Modestly trimming estimates: We are trimming our 2009 and 2010 EPS estimate by $0.05 to $3.10 and $3.70, respectively. Accordingly, our price target drops $1 to $46 per share. We are maintaining our Buy rating as NS is poised to benefit once volumes eventually return to the North American rail network. However, we are not without caution as we believe coal volumes have the potential to come under notable pressure after the first quarter due to continued mine outages, lower thermal demand, and a considerable drop off in export coal to Europe."
Orange County, Calif., has generated its share of controversy in recent years involving passenger rail, particularly light rail, but Santa Ana has awarded Cordoba Corp. a contract worth up to $6 million for a two-year study of streetcar options for the city. The initial plan calls for a line linking downtown Santa Ana with downtown Garden Grove, a distance of approximately nine miles.
But the choice of Cordoba Corp. has generated its own controversy, since the company reported received the lowest ranking by the city’s evaluation committee among three bids submitted. Parsons Brinckerhoff reportedly wrote a letter protesting the decision, saying it “raises serious doubt as to the integrity of the process.” David Evans and Associates, Inc., was the third bidder.
Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido says Cordoba will be the lead contractor of a “hybrid” team the city plans to assemble. The evaluation committee assembled by the city included the city managers from both Santa Ana and Garden Grove, as well as a planner, an engineer, a public-works administrator, and a deputy executive from the Orange County Transportation Authority. OCTA plans to fund most of the planning effort.
Toyota Logistics Services announced Tuesday that it has presented an award to Union Pacific recognizing UP as the top railroad in customer service for 2008.
The award recognizes excellence in "equipment supply, communication, responsiveness, information supply, and overall ease of doing business."
Noting that the railroad moved more than 700,000 Toyota vehicles in 2008, Julie Krehbiel, UP's general manager and vice president-Automotive, commented: "Our team worked hard to satisfy Toyota's customer service needs and is dedicated to providing the best service possible. Toyota is well-known for its continuous improvement programs and appreciated our success on their behalf."
Brossard, Que.-based Railpower Technologies Corp. announced Tuesday that the Quebec Superior Court has issued an order giving the company an additional period of protection under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act Canada (CCAA). The purpose is "to provide Railpower with an opportunity to develop a comprehensive business restructuring plan for consideration by its creditors" and the court.
An initial order was granted on Feb. 4, was extended on March 4 and April 7, and has now been further extended until May 20. While Railpower is under CCAA protection, creditors and other third parties are stayed from taking steps against the company.
Railpower develops and markets environmentally friendly locomotives and power plants for the transportation and related industries.
Seattle will join U.S. light rail transit ranks on Saturday, July 18, when Sound Transit’s 14-mile, $2.44 billion Central Link light rail service commences, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels has announced.
The long-awaited service, under federal funding agreements, is supposed to commence on July 3, but Seattle is fearful of possible problems related to the July 4 weekend, which could tax police and other municipal services.
Sound Transit officials are planning for 100,000 riders July 18; the agency plans to run 14 trains with at least 28 of its 35 cars and will have live entertainment at stations. Rides will be free on the two inaugural weekend days, July 18 and 19.
Link initially will run between Westlake Station, at the north end of downtown Seattle, and Tukwila International Boulevard. A 1.6-mile extension to Sea-Tac Airport is scheduled to be added in December, with buses set to connect the Tukwilla station to the airport until that time.
Officials expect 26,000 riders a day once Link runs to the airport, though less than that between July and December, said Michael Williams, Sound Transit's light rail activation manager. Service is scheduled to run to the University of Washington in 2016, a $1.7 billion project. Sound Transit anticipates 45,000 LRT riders a day by 2020.
On the same day CN announced plans for a new chief executive officer, the Class I railroad also announced it would offer $250,000 to Michigan Technological University's Rail Transportation Program to create the CN Rail Transportation Education Center (CN RTEC).
CN RTEC will open in fall 2009 and function as a central location for student, faculty, and industry collaboration, MTU said in a statement. It will also provide education and research facilities for the Rail Transportation Program, including computer workstations with rail applications, a reference library, and online learning technologies.
"CN's decision to support the CN Rail Transportation Education Center is an integral part of the development of this program and has helped ensure its future success. It is a pleasure to be able to share with CN the excitement we have for the Rail Transportation Program," said Michigan Tech President Glenn D. Mroz.
Jim Vena, CN's senior vice president, Southern Region, said: "We are very pleased that our donation will help today's youth become tomorrow's railroaders--the people who will shape the future success of our company and the North American economy. Few universities in the United States can produce students with such high-caliber education, specifically in railroad transportation, as Michigan Tech does. Michigan Tech engineering graduates arrive at CN well equipped to start working for the railroad."
The 18-month old Rail Transportation Program (RTP), directed by Pasi Lautala, is designed to attract university students to rail industry careers.
Michigan Tech's RTP attracts students from a wide range of degree programs and includes courses about rail transportation and engineering, as well as urban rail transit. The program currently offers three rail-related courses. Through its Summer in Finland program, it is the first rail transportation education program to integrate a strong international study component into a multi-disciplinary thrust in rail education.
The RTP has begun an initiative to establish a multi-disciplinary certificate in rail transportation and engineering. The university is also working with its industry partners to expand opportunities for student and faculty participation in real-world rail development through sponsored projects and research.
Ansaldo STS, through its subsidiary Ansaldo STS USA, has received a $25.8 million contract from the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) for the LIRR Harold and Point CIL’s (Central Instrument Location) Interlocking project.
This project, part of the LIRR East Side Access program, replaces the current vital relay-based interlocking control system with a MicroLok vital microprocessor-based system.
This switch to a microprocessor-based technology follows on the success of other upgrades ASTS USA has implemented for the LIRR using the MicroLok II platform, including the Wood, Jamaica, Amityville, and Wantagh interlockings.
Harold Interlocking, located just east of the East River which separates Manhattan from Queens, handles virtually all LIRR passenger train movements on the system, as well as Amtrak trains traveling between New York and Boston on the Northeast Corridor.
The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey has chosen RailComm to provide a wireless remote control switch heater system for the PA’s Air Train serving John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.
The turnkey control system will include the RailComm switchheater controllers communicating to a central office via a dedicated data radio network. RailComm’s Domain Operations Controller (DOC®) System resides in thecentral office and provides the operator with a user interface to control the20 switch heaters. RailComm says the system reduces energy costs, while also increasing safety and reliability.
The DOC® software-based control system is an command, control, communications, and information (C3i) server-based platform that supports a wide variety of integrated solutions for indication, control, access, and distribution of critical operational data.
Canadian National Chairman David G. A. McLean announced Tuesday that Claude Mongeau has been selected by CN’s board of directors to succeed E. Hunter Harrison as president and chief executive officer at the end of 2009. Mongeau, 47, is CN's executive vice-president and chief financial officer; he joined the company in 1994.
In 1997, the Financial Post magazine named Mongeau one of Canada's top 40 executives under 40 years of age. In 2005, he was selected Canada's CFO of the Year by an independent committee of prominent Canadian business leaders.
"Claude is an exceptional executive and leader,” McLean said in a statement. “He is one of the architects of CN's industry-leading financial performance and the key strategist behind the highly successful rail acquisitions that have grown CN's reach throughout North America and made it a key industry player. He has a keen appreciation of the power of CN's unique business model--Precision Railroading-- and will be supported by an outstanding team of railroaders."
Said Mongeau (far left, accepting congratulations from Harrison), "I deeply appreciate the board's confidence and I look forward to leading CN. I am excited about the company's future and firmly believe market trends strongly favor the growth of rail transportation. CN is superbly positioned for the future, thanks to the work of Hunter Harrison and our executive team, and I am committed to fulfilling that potential by continuing to drive innovation, greater efficiency and better service for our customers."
Harrison, 64, has served as CN’s chief executive since Jan. 1, 2003. Prior to that he served as CN's executive vice-president and chief operating officer. He was named Railway Age’s Railroader of the Year in 2002; he also was named Canada's CEO of the Year by Report on Business magazine.
In a statement, Harrison said, “Claude is a key member of my management team at CN, and I have the greatest confidence in his abilities. I've worked very closely with him on every aspect of the business. Over the next few months Claude and I will work very closely together to ensure a seamless transition at year-end."
Canadian National late Monday reported its first-quarter results, with net income of C$424 million, or 90 Canadian cents per diluted share, compared with C$311 million, or 64 Canadian cents per diluted share, reported in the first quarter of 2008.
Excluding one-time items, CN recorded earnings of C$302 million, or 64 Canadian cents per share, but even those results beat Wall Street analyst expectations of 60 Canadian cents per share.
CN revenue fell 4% for the quarter compared with the 2008 quarter, while freightcar loadings fell 16%. Operating expenses fell 2%, assisted in part by falling fuel prices. Operating income declined 8%, and the railroad’s operating ratio rose 1.2 points to 74.1%.
The railroad noted special circumstances included a gain of C$157 million, or C$135 million after-tax (C$0.29 per diluted share), from the sale of a railway route to Toronto’s GO Transit, and the C$46 million expense related to CN's acquisition of the Elgin, Joliet and Eastern Railway Co. in the U.S. in late January, among other items.
The strengthening of the U.S. dollar affected the conversion of the CN's U.S. dollar-denominated revenue and expenses, increasing first-quarter 2009 net income by approximately C$30 million, or C$0.06 per diluted share.
In a statement, E. Hunter Harrison, president and chief executive officer, said, "Economic conditions during the first quarter of 2009 were challenging. Our traffic declined sharply as production cuts andreduced imports and exports coursed through the North American and global economies. But we responded quickly to the downturn, using the discipline of our Precision Railroading model to reduce expenses while maintaining quality service. Among other measures, we reduced train starts and cut discretionary expenditures.
"Amid these challenges, the weakening of the Canadian dollar vis a vis the U.S. dollar was a shock absorber, and we remained focused on generating increased shareholder value through the sale of our Weston subdivision in Toronto,” Harrison said.
Harrison also noted, “I am particularly proud that we completed the acquisition of the EJ&E during the quarter. The route-around-Chicago represented by the EJ&E, and the upgrades we plan for the line in the next three years, will pay dividends to CN in the years ahead through faster transit times, improved productivity, and better service to customers."