© Dan Ross union pacific
© Dan Ross

BLOOMBERG reports:


Union Pacific Corp.’s shipments of coal and chemicals jumped in the first quarter, helping the largest publicly traded railroad to post profit above analysts’ expectations.

Earnings were $2.57 a share, up from $2 a year earlier, the Omaha, Nebraska-based company said Thursday in a statement. Analysts expected $2.53 on average, according to estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Revenue rose to $5.86 billion, while analysts had predicted $5.75 billion.

Profit was driven by robust pricing that helped increase revenue per carload by 12% even as freight volume only rose 4.1%.

North American railroads, including Union Pacific, continue to grapple with slower trains and increased times for railcars that sit in switching yards, crimping their ability to increase carloads and take advantage of shippers who are seeking to save on transportation by using rail over trucks. An increase in rail freight prices have helped offset additional costs related to the gummed-up networks, such as train crew overtime.

Congestion caused intermodal, which are containers that can be hauled by ship, train and truck, to drop during the quarter even as shippers look to use rail over trucks. Union Pacific also was affected by the jump in diesel because it typically takes a couple of months to update fuel surcharges, creating a lag for passing through that cost to shippers.

Union Pacific shares rose 1.6% before regular trading Thursday in New York. The stock slipped 1.9% this year through Wednesday, compared to a 6.4% decline in the S&P 500 Index.

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