Canadian National Earnings Beat Estimates on Grain Shipments

Jul 21, 2014 4:53 pm ET

(Updates with forecast in fourth paragraph.)

July 21 (Bloomberg) -- Canadian National Railway Co. reported second-quarter profit that beat analysts’ estimates as shipments of grain and fertilizers soared 29 percent.

Earnings per share of C$1.03 compared with an average estimate of C$1 in a Bloomberg survey of 25 analysts. Revenue rose 17 percent to C$3.1 billion ($2.89 billion), the Montreal- based company said in a statement today.

Canadian National joins smaller rival Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. and U.S. operator CSX Corp. in exceeding estimates with its latest quarterly results. After a first quarter in which North American railroads were hit by harsher-than-normal winter weather, carriers are recovering as U.S. economic growth picks up and analysts project rail carloads climbed at the fastest pace since 2010.

The company now expects to deliver a “solid double-digit” increase in earnings per share from last year’s C$3.06, Canadian National said today. The railroad had earlier said it was “aiming for” earnings growth of at least 10 percent.

Full-year free cash flow will probably range from C$1.8 billion to C$2 billion, Canadian National also said today, up from an earlier projection of C$1.6 billion to C$1.7 billion.

Canadian National rose 2.2 percent to $69.50 at 4:22 p.m. in U.S. trading after the close in New York.

Record Crop

Net income in the second quarter rose 18 percent to C$847 million from C$717 million a year earlier. The increase in revenue in the quarter was driven by a record Canadian grain crop, strong energy markets and market share gains, the company said.

Canadian National and Canadian Pacific faced criticism this year from farmers holding record grain inventories, prompting Canada’s federal government to adopt a law setting minimum volume requirements for shipments of crops.

An 11 percent jump in carloads in the second quarter shows “a swift and definitive recovery on the back of one of the worst winters on record,” Steve Hansen, an analyst at Raymond James Financial Inc. in Vancouver, said in a July 17 note to clients. He has the equivalent of a buy rating on the stock.

Operating ratio, a widely watched measure of railroad efficiency, improved by 1.3 percentage points to 59.6 percent.