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CSX 4Q profit down 5 per cent but railroad hauled more freight as economy improved

OMAHA, Neb. - CSX railroad's fourth-quarter profit declined 5 per cent as coal demand remained weak, but the volumes it hauled grew as the economy improved.

The railroad expects the economy to continue growing and is ready to take advantage of that growth, said CEO Michael Ward in a statement Wednesday.

The Jacksonville, Fla.-based railroad earned $426 million, or 42 cents per share, in the last three months of 2013. That's down from $449 million net income, or 44 cents per share. The 2012 quarter included a one-time real estate gain of $57 million, or 6 cents per share.

The company's shares declined 2.7 per cent to $28.44 in after-hours trading. CSX's results fell just short of the 43 cents earnings per share that analysts surveyed by FactSet expected.

CSX revenue grew 5 per cent to $3.03 billion, roughly what Wall Street predicted.

Edward Jones analyst Logan Purk said it is worrisome that the railroad's revenue per carload slipped 1 per cent. That suggests CSX might be having trouble increasing prices for shipments. But Purk said there are still several long-term positives for the railroad, such as the growing crude oil and intermodal businesses.

Intermodal shipping involves the metal containers that are also carried on ships and trucks.

"The clear positive is the volume number," Purk said.

The railroad hauled 6 per cent more carloads of freight during the quarter, as growth in other types of goods offset the 5 per cent drop in coal shipments.

Chemical shipments, which include the fast-growing crude oil segment, increased 18 per cent, agricultural shipments surged 16 per cent and carloads of intermodal containers grew 11 per cent.

Railroad results are considered indicators of the health of the economy. The number of cars, chemicals, fuel, crops, lumber and containers of imported goods railroads carry provides an indication of the health of those industries.

CSX Corp. operates more than 21,000 miles of track in 23 Eastern states and two Canadian provinces.

Through all of 2013, CSX reported $1.86 billion net income, or $1.83 per share, on $12 billion revenue. That was roughly in line with last year's results.

CSX is the first major freight railroad to release quarterly earnings. Norfolk Southern Corp. will release its fourth-quarter results next Wednesday, with Union Pacific Corp. the day after.


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