Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd, the country’s second-largest railroad, reported a higher-than-expected 17 percent jump in first quarter earnings on Tuesday and expressed confidence it can meet its targets for the year despite having to deal with setbacks from one of the harshest winters in decades.
CP shares jumped 6 percent to C$173.83 on the Toronto Stock Exchange in early morning trading. The stock is up more than 30 percent over the past year, but it had struggled since the company reported its previous quarterly results in late January, hurt by concerns about the impact of the winter weather.
“We see CP’s (first-quarter) results as solid, taking into consideration the company’s reiteration of its full-year 2014 guidance despite the tough weather conditions and new grain regulations that weighed on industry,” Desjardins Securities analyst Benoit Poirier said in a client note.
Both Calgary, Alberta-based CP and Canada’s largest railway, Canadian National Railway Co, have been under enormous pressure to clear a massive grain backlog that resulted from a record harvest last year and from subsequent service impairments caused by frigid weather.
The huge logjam in moving the grain harvest prompted the Canadian government to impose minimum weekly grain delivery volumes on the railways for a limited period. In addition, legislation is moving through Parliament that will give the government authority to set minimum targets for grain movement in coming years.
CP, which also operates a network in the United States, said it has been meeting and exceeding the weekly minimum shipment of 5,500 carloads of grain mandated by the government, Poirier noted.
The company said net earnings rose to C$254 million ($231 million), or C$1.44 per share, in the quarter ended March 31, from C$217 million, or C$1.24 per share, a year earlier.
Analysts, on average, had expected earnings of C$1.41 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Total revenue rose about 1 percent to C$1.51 billion, in line with estimates.
“Despite a slow start to the year and the reduced capacity, which limited our ability to meet strong customer demand, we still have the utmost confidence in our ability to achieve our financial targets for 2014,” Chief Executive Hunter Harrison said in a statement.
The company, which has been hitting its long-term goals ahead of schedule since Harrison took the helm in 2012, said in January it expected adjusted earnings to rise at least 30 percent and revenue to increase by 6 percent to 7 percent in 2014.
CP said its operating ratio improved 380 basis points to 72 percent in the first quarter. Operating ratio is the percentage of revenue needed to maintain operations and is a key measure of railroad efficiency. The lower the number the better.
Volumes declined across all shipment categories during the quarter.
Grain, and industrial and consumer products were the only two segments that recorded higher freight revenues compared with a year earlier, with rise in the latter category likely fueled primarily by crude-by-rail shipments, analysts said. Fertilizers and sulfur saw the largest year-over-year declines in freight revenue.
Last week, U.S. officials ordered CP to report its plans to ensure timely fertilizer delivery to U.S. farmers and provide detailed weekly status reports about fertilizer shipments for six weeks, starting April 25. (Reuters)