The railroad's revenue rose 8 percent to $2.5 billion, operating income increased 5 percent to $985 million, net income inched up about 1 percent to $664 million and diluted earnings per share climbed 10 percent to $1.38 compared with third-quarter 2011 results (all figures are in Canadian dollars). In addition, volume increased 3 percent to 1.3 million units.
The Class I's operating ratio rose 1.3 points year over year, but to a still-sterling 60.6.
"CN's focus on operational and service excellence helped the company post a solid third-quarter performance," said CN President and Chief Executive Officer Claude Mongeau in a prepared statement. "We continued to improve service and were able to make solid progress in our key velocity, efficiency and safety metrics across our network."
The Class I registered revenue gains in all seven of its business sectors: petroleum and chemicals, 15 percent to $416 million; coal (driven by metallurgical coal traffic), 13 percent to $187 million; grain and fertilizers, 10 percent to $368 million; automotive, 9 percent to $127 million; metals and minerals, 7 percent to $293 million; intermodal, 6 percent to $510 million; and forest products, 3 percent to $336 million. In addition, revenue ton-miles rose 7 percent and freight revenue per ton-mile increased 2 percent.
Petroleum and chemicals business primarily was driven by higher shipments of crude oil originating in western Canada, said Mongeau.
"CN's crude oil volume in the quarter rose to a run rate of 40,000 carloads on an annualized basis," he said.
However, quarterly operating expenses climbed 10 percent to $1.5 billion, mainly due to higher labor and fringe benefits, and purchased services and material costs, as well as increased volume-related fuel costs.
Looking ahead to the remainder of 2012 and beyond, CN expects to increase revenue slightly faster than general growth in the North American economy in part because of the railroad's "agenda of supply chain collaboration," said Mongeau, adding that the Class I will accommodate the revenue growth at a "low incremental cost."
"While cautious about the strength of the economy, we see continued opportunities to grow our business in the longer term," he said.
Meanwhile, CN announced today that Janet Drysdale will become vice president of investor relations on Dec. 1 to succeed Robert Noorigian, who plans to retire at year's end.
Most recently director of economics and strategy, Drysdale joined CN in 1996. She has held positions of increasing responsibility in sales and marketing and financial planning, and was a senior investor relations manager for about four years.
Noorigian also joined CN in 1996. He previously was director of investor relations at Southern Pacific Railway and Union Pacific Corp.
"Bob has been a trusted partner and adviser to CN leaders since , and to me personally throughout my entire career at CN," said Mongeau. "He has provided CN valuable guidance regarding our position in international equity markets and deftly managed CN's relationship with investors."
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