November 22, 2014

NS joins the ‘earnings-have-soared’ pack

Norfolk Southern on Oct. 27 followed most other major railroads in reporting substantial earnings improvements for the third quarter 2010.

CSX, Canadian National, Kansas City Southern and Union Pacific all have reported substantial improvements in net income and operating ratio for the third quarter 2010 – now joined by Norfolk Southern’s rosy third quarter 2010 report.

Canadian Pacific, which also reported earnings Oct. 27, is the lone major railroad to post a decline in net income – some 6 percent lower than the third quarter 2009. However, CP said the third quarter of 2009 included almost $70 million in one-time real estate profits not related to railroad operations, which makes year-to-year comparisons of third quarter net income somewhat cloudy.

In fact, CP brought its operating ratio down by almost three percentage points to 73.7 percent. Operating ratio is the railroad’s operating expenses expressed as a percentage of operating revenue, and is considered by economists as a basic measure of carrier profitability.

Norfolk Southern, meanwhile, told investors that its third quarter 2010 net income soared by 47 percent from the third quarter 2009. The NS operating ratio improved by more than three percentage points, to 69.9 percent.

Earlier this month:

  • CSX last week reported its third quarter 2010 earnings soared by 43 percent and its operating ratio declined by almost four percentage points, to 69.1.
  • Canadian National reported its third quarter net income increased by 21 percent, and its operating ratio declined more than two points, to 60.7.
  • Kansas City Southern reported doubling its third quarter 2010 net income, and reducing its operating ratio by almost five percentage points, to 73.5 percent.
  • Union Pacific reported its most profitable quarter ever, with third quarter 2010 net income up by 51 percent, and a record operating ratio of 68.2 percent.

As BNSF is now privately held, it no longer reports quarterly earnings.