Reeling from its failed bid to acquire Norfolk Southern Corp. (NSC - Get Report) earlier this month, Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. (CP) on Wednesday announced plans to hike both its stock buyback authorization and dividend at the same time as it reported a significant rise in net income and lower revenue for the first quarter.
Specifically, CP said it was seeking approval from the Toronto Stock Exchange to authorize a buyback of about 7 million common shares, which represents about 5% of its public float. In addition, the CP board also approved an increase of the railroad operator's quarterly dividend to C$0.50 a share, up from C$0.35.
The capital distribution move came after Canadian Pacific on April 11 cancelled a lengthy but ultimately failed $28 billion hostile effort to buy Norfolk Southern after regulators and at least one key legislator telegraphed messages to the railroad in recent months that they had serious reservations with CP's proposed transaction.
The markets responded positively to the move in pre-market trading, with CP's shares trading at $150.50 a share, up 0.44%.
In addition, CP reported that its revenues were down 4% in the first quarter at C$1.6 billion, from C$1.7 billion in the same period last year. Its net income rose 69% to C$540 million from C$320 million in the same period in 2015.
"I am proud of what the team continues to produce quarter after quarter in these difficult times and we remain optimistic in our outlook given signs of stabilization within the Canadian economy and in key global markets," said CP CEO E. Hunter Harrison.
Nevertheless, on a call with analysts, Harrison acknowledged that CP experienced a significant setback with unsuccessful Norfolk bid but that it was looking at other opportunities. "We are continually looking for opportunities strategically for this organization to grow and take advantage of our strengths," Harrison told analysts. "Having said that we just got cut off at the pass with M&A activities. But look that's not the end of the world. There are other opportunities for this organization that we'll be continually exploring and for obvious reasons I can't get into the level of detail about what they might be."
CP cancelled its hostile bid after Bill Baer, head of the Antitrust Division at the Justice Department, in March raised concerns about pre-merger coordination between the two companies. Four days before the bid was called off, the chief lawmaker on the House Transportation Committee on Capitol Hill piled on by also publicly taking issue with the transaction, suggesting it is not in the best interest of the U.S. freight industry.
The hostile bid was probably motivated in part by embattled activist investor Bill Ackman, founder of Pershing Square. Ackman has long been an advocate of railroad industry consolidation and backed an unsuccessful run CP made to acquire CSX Corp. (CSX - Get Report) in 2014. Ackman, a major CP shareholder and a director on the railroad company's board since 2012, had called Norfolk "an deal activist situation."
And Wednesday's capital distribution hike plan likely should put the final nail in the coffin of any hope Norfolk Southern or CSX shareholders might have of CP making a revised hostile bid for either railroad.