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Union Pacific Scrimps as Profit Falls

The railroad company cuts costs as first-quarter profit and revenue fall.

They've been working on the railroad costs.

Union Pacific


saw its first-quarter profit fall, but cost-cutting helped the railroad company beat Wall Street estimates.

Shares were trading up $1.07, or 2.2% to $48.79 shortly before 11 a.m. EDT Thursday.

UNP made $362 million, or 72 cents a share in the first quarter, compared with $443 million or 85 cents in the first quarter of 2008. Operating revenue dropped 20% to $3.42 billion, down from $4.27 billion.

Analysts surved by Thomson Reuters were looking for 66 cents a share on $3.55 billion in revenue.

Union Pacific, based in Omaha, Neb., said quarterly operating expenses dropped 21%, to $2.7 billion, compared with $3.5 billion a year ago. The company paid $386 million for fuel in the first quarter, down from $957 million.

"Union Pacific produced solid quarterly results despite the challenging economy," said Jim Young, chairman and chief executive officer. "We took decisive steps to reduce costs across our company, while also making strong improvements in our safety performance, operating productivity and customer service."

Business volumes, as measured by total revenue carloads, were down 21%. The company said another reason for decreased freight revenue was a $306 million year-over-year reduction in first quarter 2009 fuel surcharge revenue.

Freight revenue was down across all lines, with chemicals down 15%, industrial products off 29%, and tellingly, automotive, considering the global decline in auto sales -- down 55%.