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Rail News: Union Pacific Railroad

UP broke three financial records in Q4, four in 2014

Driven by strong volumes, solid core pricing and productivity gains, Union Pacific Corp. set three financial records in fourth-quarter 2014.

Diluted earnings per share climbed 27 percent to a Q4-best $1.61, operating income jumped 20 percent to a record $2.4 billion and the operating ratio improved 3.6 points to an all-time best 61.4 compared with fourth-quarter 2013 results. In addition, operating revenue increased 9 percent to $6.2 billion, volume rose 6 percent to 2.4 million units and net income climbed 22 percent to $1.4 billion.

"Franchise diversity" helped UP achieve record results during the quarter, which taxed network performance due to high traffic levels, according to Chief Executive Officer Jack Koraleski.

"Robust volumes challenged our network for much of the year, and we remained focused on adding the necessary resources to safely improve service," he said in a press release. "We are encouraged with the progress we are making."

Industrial products volume climbed 10 percent to 335,000 units and revenue jumped 15 percent to $1.1 billion; coal volume rose 9 percent to 455,000 units and revenue rose 9 percent to $1.08 billion; intermodal volume increased 6 percent to 898,000 units and revenue soared 11 percent to $1.1 billion; chemicals volume increased 5 percent to 275,000 units and revenue climbed 8 percent to $922 million; agricultural products volume grew 4 percent to 252,000 units and revenue rose 9 percent to $1 billion; and automotive volume ratcheted up 2 percent to 209,000 units and revenue was flat at $543 million.

Operating expenses increased 3 percent year over year to $3.8 billion primarily because compensation and benefits costs rose 7 percent to $1.3 billion and purchased services and materials costs climbed 14 percent to $665 million. Fuel costs fell 10 percent to $813 million.

For the full year, UP set the following four records: diluted earnings per share at $5.75 (up 22 percent versus 2013); operating revenue at $24 billion (up 9 percent); operating income at $8.8 billion (up 18 percent); and operating ratio at 63.5 (a 2.6-point improvement). Net income climbed 18 percent to $4.4 billion, operating expenses rose 5 percent to $14.5 billion and volume increased 7 percent to 9.6 million units.

"With 2014 behind us, we're intently focused on the year ahead. Overall, the U.S. economy continues to move forward at a moderate pace, but of course, there are always uncertainties," said Koraleski. "Clearly, one of the biggest uncertainties is the outlook for energy markets, which will bring both challenges and opportunities as we move ahead."

UP also announced that its 2015 capital spending plan will be larger than 2014's, which totaled $4.1 billion and was $500 million higher than 2013's plan. The 2015 capex program will include continued capacity investments, allocations for rolling stock and equipment — such as the acquisition of 218 locomotives — and positive train control spending.

In addition, UP announced plans to increase train speeds at several locations along a line between Arlington and Picacho, Ariz., beginning Feb. 2. Speeds will increase by 5 mph or 10 mph on Feb. 2 and another 5 mph or 10 mph on Feb. 9. The Class I spent $27.5 million on track improvements along the line over the past five years.

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