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Rail News: Financials

Deutsche Bank transportation conference: Day one presentations focus on improving economy, accelerating earnings

Yesterday, presentations during the first day of Deutsche Bank Securities Inc.'s "Transportation and Machinery Conference" in Naples, Fla., affirmed analysts' belief that the global economy is in the midst of an ongoing recovery, and most transportation sectors are consolidating and improving rates, according to a meeting summary released by Deutsche Bank analyst John Barnes.

"Rail and intermodal companies discussed the ongoing pick-up in volumes, as intermodal continues to gain popularity as a mode and the industrial economy is recovering," he said. "Furthermore, the weak U.S. dollar is driving export growth, particularly on the grain side."

The weaker U.S. dollar, low global inventories and a strong U.S. crop year are helping boost agricultural exports, said Burlington Northern Santa Fe Chief Financial Officer Tom Hund. He predicted BNSF would achieve double-digit earnings growth in the first quarter and beyond.

For CSX Corp., recovery is the key word. To restore earnings, the company plans to focus on improving operations, increasing revenue and changing CSX's organizational structure, said Executive Vice President and CFO Oscar Munoz. CSX is working with MultiModal Applied Systems Inc. to develop a zero-based operating plan that would create new train plans and redesign the railroad's network. The company also is selecting management leaders to drive accountability, and centralizing business processes to foster and measure earning results, Munoz said.

At Pacer International, debt reduction is the top priority — earlier this month, the company reduced debt by $3 million, said CFO Larry Yarberry. Retail business continues to present the best opportunity for Pacer to grow margins and profits. This year, the company plans to add capacity by obtaining 4,000 containers and 2,000 chassis to meet increasing demand.

Finally, United Parcel Service Senior Vice President of Worldwide Sales and Marketing Kurt Kuehn discussed the company's "package flow technology" initiatives designed to reduce annual operating costs by $600 million, beginning in 2006. The shipper still is targeting acquisitions to increase capabilities, but not build market share, he said.

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More News from 2/12/2004