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Rail News: Union Pacific Railroad

Union Pacific set four all-time financial records in 2Q

By several financial measures, the second quarter wasn't just a record-setter for Union Pacific Corp., but an all-time record-setter.

The Class I set four best-ever quarterly records in 2Q: diluted earnings per share at $2.37 (up 13 percent year over year); operating revenue at $5.5 billion (up 5 percent); operating income at $1.9 billion (up 9 percent); and operating ratio (OR) at 65.7 (down 1.3 points). The OR also fell 0.9 points compared with the previous record ratio set in third-quarter 2012.

UP was able to register the banner results despite a 1 percent drop in volume to 2.24 million units as chemical and automotive business gains (10 percent and 4 percent, respectively) couldn't offset agricultural product and intermodal traffic declines (10 percent and 3 percent, respectively), as well as flat coal shipments. Excluding ag products volume, traffic rose 1 percent.

"We managed our network efficiently and continued to show the agility of our strong franchise," said UP President and Chief Executive Office Jack Koraleski during an earnings conference this morning. "When combined with solid core pricing gains, we more than offset the slight shortfall in volumes."

By market sector:
• Ag products revenue declined 8 percent to $784 million as grain volume fell 22 percent due to tight corn supplies and lower export feed demand;
• Intermodal revenue dipped 1 percent to $993 million as a 3 percent gain in domestic business driven by highway conversions was offset by an 8 percent decrease in international volumes;
• Automotive revenue jumped 12 percent to $534 million as vehicle sales continued to gain momentum, including strong demand for light trucks;
• Chemical revenue rose 12 percent to $890 million as crude oil traffic jumped 39 percent and petroleum products/LP gas traffic increased 10 percent;
• Coal revenue climbed 12 percent to $975 million as utilities reduced stockpiles; and
• Industrial products revenue increased 7 percent to $977 million as drilling activities at shales propelled frac sand demand and U.S. housing growth drove up lumber traffic by 11 percent.

In terms of operating expenses, total costs rose 3 percent to $3.6 billion primarily because compensation and benefits expenses increased 3 percent to $1.2 billion and purchased services and materials expenses climbed 8 percent to $585 million. UP's workforce increased 2 percent year over year to 46,787 mostly due to a shift to more labor-intensive manifest traffic and ongoing positive train control work, said Chief Financial Officer Robert Knight.

Fuel costs decreased 2 percent to $863 million as the average price of diesel declined 3 percent to $3.10, he said.

Looking ahead, UP remains on track to register a sub-65 full-year OR by 2017 because of efforts to ensure solid core pricing and drive network efficiencies, said Knight.

The Class I plans to continue focusing on reinvestible pricing, attracting new and profitable growth opportunities, and running a safe, efficient and reliable network, said Koraleski.

"As we move into the second half of the year, the economic outlook remains uncertain, but we're hopeful that we'll see some economic improvement in the months ahead," he said.

Jeff Stagl

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 7/18/2013