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CSX Corp. capped off 2014 by setting four financial records in both the fourth quarter and for the full year.The fourth-quarter records include revenue, which increased 5 percent to $3.19 billion; operating income, which grew 11 percent to $901 million; net earnings, which jumped 15 percent to $491 million; and earnings per share, which climbed 17 percent to 49 cents compared with fourth-quarter 2013 results. In addition, volume rose 6 percent to 1.76 million units, the operating ratio improved 1.4 points to 71.8 and operating expenses increased only 3 percent to $2.3 billion due to drops in materials/supplies and fuel costs.Merchandise volume increased 5 percent to 744,000 units and revenue rose 6 percent to $1.9 billion primarily because of strong chemicals, minerals, metals, forest products and waste/equipment business. Intermodal volume increased 5 percent to 699,000 units and revenue rose 6 percent to $465 million, while coal volume shot up 11 percent to 320,000 units and revenue grew 6 percent to $722 million.CSX registered strong financial results in part because it's leveraging the most diverse business mix in the railroad's history, said Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Ward during an earnings conference held this morning. The mix has helped offset coal revenue losses, which have totaled about $900 million over a prolonged period, he said."CSX is capturing broad-based market strength, completing strategic infrastructure projects and adding resources to further improve service performance and leverage growth opportunities," said Ward. "Building on a foundation of strong safety and customer service, we expect to continue growing our intermodal and merchandise businesses faster than the economy, pricing above inflation and driving efficient asset utilization."For the full year, CSX reported all-time records for revenue, which grew 5 percent to $12.7 billion; operating income, which rose 4 percent to $3.6 billion; net earnings, which increased 3 percent to $1.9 billion; and earnings per share, which also ratcheted up 3 percent to $1.92 compared with 2013 results. Volume climbed 6 percent to 6.9 million units, operating expenses rose 6 percent to $9 billion and the operating ratio was relatively flat at 71.5.During the conference, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Fredrik Eliasson announced CSX is targeting a 2015 capital spending budget of $2.5 billion, which represents a modest increase versus 2014's budget. One-half of the capex budget is allocated for core infrastructure maintenance and improvement projects, and one-quarter of the dollars are dedicated for equipment investments, such as locomotive and rail-car acquisitions.CSX expects to spend $300 million on positive train control (PTC) implementation in 2015, said Eliasson. The railroad projects it will spend more than $400 million beyond 2015, bringing the new estimated total cost of PTC implementation to $1.9 billion, he said.
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