Union Pacific Profit Rose Even as Volumes Dropped

Union Pacific first-quarter profit rose even as volume - revenue-generating carloads - slid. The rail operator cited its strong productivity efforts.
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Union Pacific  (UNP) - Get Report, the largest freight rail provider in the West, reported first-quarter earnings that beat expectations, despite the coronavirus epidemic.

Net income totaled $1.47 billion in the quarter, or $2.15 a share, up from $1.39 billion, or $1.93, in the year-earlier quarter. Analysts polled by FactSet forecast $1.89 a share for the latest quarter.

Revenue dipped to $5.23 billion in the quarter from $5.38 billion. But this year’s total still beat FactSet's analyst consensus of $5.1 billion.

"Against the backdrop of the emerging covid-19 pandemic and a challenging volume environment, we leveraged productivity to deliver strong financial results, including an all-time best operating ratio of 59%," Union Pacific Chief Executive Lance Fritz said in a statement.

"We also made substantial improvement in employee safety. … Our rail network has never run better, providing a safer, more reliable and efficient service product to our customers."

Union Pacific’s volume - revenue carloads - fell 7% in the first quarter amid the pandemic. It estimates that volume will drop 25% this quarter.

Lower fuel prices boosted the company’s profit in the first quarter. Union Pacific’s average diesel price in the quarter dropped 10% from a year earlier.

The railroad is prepared for rough times ahead, it said. "Although the situation is fluid and highly uncertain, the company fully expects to maintain sufficient liquidity to sustain an extended period of lower volumes.”

Union Pacific shares recently traded at $156.30, up 6.3%. The stock has dropped 19% over the past three months.

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