MONTREAL, QUEBEC, CANADA — Despite record grain hauls over the past few months the Canadian National Railway Co. (CN) third-quarter earnings slipped.
Net income at CN totaled C$985 million in the third quarter ended Sept. 31, equal to C57¢ per share on the common stock, down from C$1.195 billion in the same period a year ago. Revenues fell slightly to C$3.409 billion compared to C$3.830 billion.
CN attributed the dip in revenue to lowered volumes across most commodity groups due to the continued effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and fuel surcharge rates. Those factors were partially offset by freight. rate increases and increased Canadian grain shipments.
Throughout 2020, CN has continued to move record amounts of grain for the past seven months. The company moved 7.76 million tonnes of grain in the third quarter of 2020. In September, CN moved over 2.81 million tonnes of Canadian grain compared with the previous record of 2.6 million tonnes set in 2016 and 2.43 million tonnes in August, which compared with the previous record of 2.31 million tonnes set in 2014.
Revenues for the grain and fertilizers segment increased 10% to C$608 million from C$552 million.
Looking forward CN is working to prepare its network to transport more grain.
“Canadian grain and US grain are expected to be growth drivers in Q4 and 2021,” said James Cairns, senior vice president of rail centric supply chain of CN. “The Canadian crop may hit an all-time record, and the US crop is expected to be above average.
“The step function change in grain supply chain capacity has been years in the making, and we are investing alongside our customers. We have purchased 2,500 new high-capacity grain hoppers, and our customers have also invested in new private fleet of similar high payload cars. By the end of Q1 next year, we will have over 4,200 new high capacity hopper cars cycling on our network.”
CN does not plan to provide a 2020 financial guidance for the fourth quarter of the year.
“We withdrew our full-year guidance on our Q1 earnings call,” said Ghislain Houle, executive vice president and chief financial officer of CN. “Given that we now have nine months of actuals and that we report weekly volumes, we see limited value in reinstating our guidance at this time. That being said, with the volume recovery that we have seen sequentially and the good momentum so far in Q4, we are aiming to provide annual guidance for 2021 on our upcoming January call.”
CN transports more than C$250 billion worth of goods annually for a wide range of business sectors, ranging from resource products to manufactured products to consumer goods, across a rail network of approximately 20,000 route miles spanning Canada and mid-America.