Similar to CSX Corp., Union Pacific Railroad overcame weak coal traffic and set four financial records in the first quarter. But unlike CSX, UP also had to compensate for a steep decline in agricultural products business, mainly grain.
UP's first-quarter records include operating revenue, which increased 3 percent year over year to $5.3 billion; operating income, which rose 8 percent to $1.6 billion; diluted earnings per share, which climbed 13 percent to $2.03; and the operating ratio, which improved 1.4 points to 69.1 — the first time in the Class I's history that it posted a sub-70 ratio. In addition, net income grew 11 percent to $957 million.
Total volume declined 2 percent to 2.17 million carloads primarily because coal volume fell 19 percent to 402,000 units and ag products volume dipped 9 percent to 212,000 units. But volume gains in the chemical (12 percent to 271,000 units), intermodal (4 percent to 810,000 units) and automotive (2 percent to 184,000 units) sectors helped offset those drops.
UP leveraged the strengths of its diverse franchise despite the steep coal and grain business declines, said President and Chief Executive Officer Jack Koraleski during the Class I's earnings conference this morning.
"We efficiently managed our operations in the face of dynamic volume shifts across the network," he said.
In terms of revenue per business segment:
• coal revenue declined 6 percent to $936 million because of high utility stockpiles and mine production issues in Colorado and Utah;
• ag products revenue decreased 9 percent to $784 million because of limited corn supplies and a 10 percent drop in ethanol business;
• automotive revenue climbed 13 percent to $487 million because of pent-up demand to replace aging vehicles and higher truck demand associated with housing and construction;
• chemical revenue rose 14 percent to $873 million because crude oil volume more than doubled and demand was solid for plastics and liquified gas;
• industrial products revenue grew 6 percent to $916 million because of strong lumber and frac sand volumes; and
• intermodal revenue increased 9 percent to $988 million because international business rose 8 percent.
UP also reported that first-quarter operating expenses rose 2 percent to $3.7 billion. Compensation and benefit costs were flat at $1.2 billion and fuel costs declined 3 percent to $900 million, but purchased services and material costs rose 6 percent to $557 million.
Through the remainder of 2013, UP expects volume to increase slightly depending on the economy's health, summer weather, and the state of the ag products and coal sectors. For the full year, the Class I anticipates a record operating ratio and record earnings.
Longer term, UP remains committed to achieving a sub-65 operating ratio by 2017, said Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Rob Knight.
— Jeff Stagl
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