Canadian National Railway (CNI)

Q3 2011 Earnings Call

October 25, 2011 4:30 pm ET

Executives

Jean-Jacques Ruest - Chief Marketing Officer and Executive Vice President

Keith E. Creel - Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President

Claude Mongeau - Chief Executive Officer, President, Director, Chairman of Donations & Sponsorships Committee and Member of Strategic Planning Committee

Luc Jobin - Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice-president

Robert Noorigian - Vice President of Investor Relations

Analysts

Walter Spracklin - RBC Capital Markets, LLC, Research Division

Turan Quettawala - Scotia Capital Inc., Research Division

Cherilyn Radbourne - TD Newcrest Capital Inc., Research Division

Keith Schoonmaker - Morningstar Inc., Research Division

Matthew Troy - Susquehanna Financial Group, LLLP, Research Division

Steven C. Sherowski - BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division

John D. Godyn - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

David Vernon - Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., LLC., Research Division

Benoit Poirier - Desjardins Securities Inc., Research Division

Christian Wetherbee - Citigroup Inc, Research Division

David Tyerman - Canaccord Genuity, Research Division

David F. Newman - Cormark Securities Inc., Research Division

Jason H. Seidl - Dahlman Rose & Company, LLC, Research Division

Thomas R. Wadewitz - JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division

Christopher J. Ceraso - Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division

Jeffrey A. Kauffman - Sterne Agee & Leach Inc., Research Division

Presentation

Operator

I would like to remind you that today's remarks contain forward-looking statements within the meaning of applicable securities laws. Such statements are based on assumptions that may not materialize and are subjects to risks described in CN's third quarter 2011 financial results press release and analyst presentation documents that can be found on CN's website.

As such, actual results could differ materially. Reconciliations for any non-GAAP measures are also posted on CN's website at www.cn.ca. Please stand by. Your call will begin shortly.

Welcome to the CN Third Quarter 2011 Financial Results Conference Call. I would like to turn the meeting over to Mr. Robert Noorigian, Vice President, Investor Relations. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Noorigian.

Robert Noorigian

Good afternoon. Thank you for joining us for CN's third quarter conference call. I'd like to remind you about the comments that have already been made regarding CN's forward-looking statements.

With us today is Claude Mongeau, our President and Chief Executive Officer; Luc Jobin, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer; Keith Creel, Executive Vice President, Chief Operating Officer; and J.J. Ruest, Executive Vice President, Chief Marketing Officer.

After the presentation, we'd like to take questions from those of you who are listening on our call today. Could you please identify yourself when asking the question? In order to be fair to everybody, could you limit the number of questions that you're asking to one?

Thank you very much. And now it's my pleasure to introduce Mr. Claude Mongeau, our President and Chief Executive Officer. Claude?

Claude Mongeau

Thank you, Bob, and thank you all for joining us on this call. We're announcing our third quarter results, and I'm very, very proud of the results. We have had strong performance pretty much across the board, and we're delivering on our agenda in all aspects that matter at the moment. We have record revenue performance, a good balance between solid volume increase, good pricing, and overall, if you adjust for currency, our revenues are up 12% over last quarter. And that's reflective of our ability throughout the quarter and since the beginning of the year to outpace the general rate of economic growth.

This top line momentum was translated into solid bottom line results. We were able to turn in an operating ratio of 59.3% for the quarter. Our earnings on an adjusted basis are up 16%, and our year-to-date free cash flow is in excess of $1.3 billion.

So all in all, solid results driven by our delivering our strategic agenda.

And with that, I will turn it over to the team to give you more details, and I'll get back to you at the end with a wrap-up. Keith?

Keith E. Creel

Okay, thanks, Claude. Let me say for certain your comments are greatly appreciated by the men and the women of this operating team that execute and enabling this performance for CN. If you combine that with the first strategic agenda, which is same as our customer innovation and supply-chain automation. Secondly, J.J. and his team's strong book of business in filing our precision railroading operating model that we were able to deliver an outstanding result in the third quarter.

So with that said, let's go straight to the third quarter operating performance, and I'll touch some of our key measures.

I'll comment again on the key metrics we report quarterly that always provide us a useful summary of our performance and the high cost in service impact areas.

As you can see the GTMs per train mile, the train load continues to grow with CN, which drives reduced clear locomotive and [indiscernible] expense. Now this performance, specifically, is made possible in significant part from our continued execution of what I call capacity enhancement investments and exciting -- extended citings and distributive power, which has allowed us to absorb a lot of this growth, incremental growth at a very low cost.

Cars per yard switching hour terminal grow roughly flat year-over-year. This is against our volumes and some switch crews as we go through our transition with our demographics. Fewer steeple knew with part of our learning curve, particularly in the west where we have experienced the most amount of growth.

Trailing GTM as a percent of horsepower, this is all in measure of our locomotive productivity. What may appear to some to be slippage year-over-year is more reflective of our decision to err on the side of being a bit low in locomotive -- locomotive left in service in order to finish cleaning up some of the traffic we impacted during the very tough winter we had and the spring, as well as prepare ourself to ramp for grain and potash, which is in full steam now.

Read the rest of this transcript for free on seekingalpha.com