Canadian National Railway Company 's CNI third-quarter 2016 earnings (on an adjusted basis) of C$1.25 per share (or 96 cents) beat the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 92 cents. Earnings declined marginally from C$1.26 per share reported a year ago. The company's bottom line benefited from better expense management.
However, the company's top-line performance was disappointing. Quarterly revenues of C$3,014 million (approximately $2,311 million) fell short of the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $2,366 million and deteriorated 6% on a year-over-year basis. Rail freight revenues, which accounted for bulk of the top line in the quarter, declined 7%. Canadian National's top line was primarily hurt by reduced shipments of energy-related commodities, declining North American demand for coal, and lower intermodal volumes.
On a year-over-year basis, freight revenues decreased 32% at the Coal segment, 13% at Petroleum and Chemicals, 20% at Metals and Minerals, and 4% at Intermodal. However, freight revenues increased 4% for Grain and Fertilizers, 2% at Forest Products, and 3% at Automotive. Carloads (volumes) dropped 4% and revenue ton miles (RTMs) fell 3% year over year.
In the quarter under review, operating income slipped 5% year over year to C$1,407 million. Operating ratio (defined as operating expenses as a percentage of revenues) was 53.3% as against 53.8% in the year-ago quarter.
Liquidity & Dividends
Canadian National exited the first nine months of 2016 with free cash flow of C$1,743 million compared with C$1,741 million in the prior-year quarter. Adjusted debt at the end of the third quarter was C$11,245 million compared with C$11,116 million a year ago.
The company's board of directors has approved a share repurchase program to buy back 33 million common shares from Oct 30, 2016 through Oct 29, 2017. The company also declared a quarterly dividend of C$0.375 which will be paid on Dec 30, to shareholders on record as of Dec 9, 2016.
CDN NATL RY CO Price, Consensus and EPS Surprise
Canadian National issued a revised guidance for 2016. The company now expects earnings per share to be up approximately 1% year over year in 2016. It had earlier expected 2016 earnings to remain flat with the 2015 level of C$4.44 per share.
The Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) company expects carloads to be lower compared to previous year in the mid single digit range while pricing is expected to stay above inflation. You can see the complete list of today's Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here .
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