CSX (CSX - Get Report) derailed hopes for an enthusiastic start to railroad earnings season late Tuesday, reporting fourth quarter results that came in just shy of what was seen as a conservative consensus.
Jacksonville, Fla.-based CSX reported net earnings of $458 million, or 49 cents per share, compared to net earnings of $466 million, or 48 cents per share, a year prior. Analysts had expected CSX to earn 50 cents per share, according to FactSet, with some calling that consensus conservative after seeing strong December traffic numbers for the industry.
Shares of the trasportation company closed down 71 cents, or about 2%, to $38.09 Tuesday. Shares slid another 4% in after-hours trading to $36.52.
Canadian Pacific (CP - Get Report) , Union Pacific (UNP - Get Report) and Kansas City Southern (KSU - Get Report) also report this week, while Norfolk Southern reports on Jan. 25. CSX was seen by the analyst community as most likely to beat what was viewed as conservative guidance, while Union Pacific will be closely watched as its volumes have trailed peers in recent quarters.
Many in the industry have already enjoyed a strong run up since the election, with CSX up 18% since early November and Union Pacific and Norfolk Southern both up 14% apiece.
CSX in a statement said the quarter included an operating property sale and a debt refinancing charge, both of which totaled 8 cents per share and offset each other for the quarter. The quarter also included an extra accounting week which boosted earnings per share by about 3 cents.
Including the extra week, fourth quarter revenue increased 9 percent to $3.04 billion, topping analyst expectations. Operating income for the quarter was $1 billion, which included the $115 million gain from the property sale and the $62 million benefit from the extra week.
Rail companies in general and Eastern-focused ones like CSX in particular were hard hit in 2016, with a decline in coal shipments leading to the worst industry year since the 2009 recession in terms of volumes. CSX for the full year generated $11.1 billion in revenue on a 5% overall drop in volume and a 21% decline in the company's coal business.
Company chairman and CEO Michael J. Ward in a statement said that he believes a combination of improving conditions and an internal initiative to streamline the railroad will generate stronger results in 2017 and the years to come.
"In an environment where the company lost almost $470 million of coal revenue and experienced weakness across most of its markets, CSX delivered nearly $430 million of productivity savings in 2016, while improving customer service," Ward said. "With business conditions gradually improving and the ongoing transformation into the CSX of Tomorrow, we will continue to deliver sustainable shareholder value."
CSX will host a conference call with analysts and investors on Wednesday morning.