Union Pacific profit up 15 percent on chemical, auto shipments

OMAHA, Neb., Thu Oct 18, 2012 – Aircraft Union Pacific Corp. posted a 15 percent rise in profit as an increase in the largest publicly traded U.S. railroad’s shipments of freight, including autos, offset weak coal shipments.

The company said on Thursday third-quarter profit was $1.04 billion, or $2.19 per share, compared with $904 million, or $1.85 per share, a year earlier. Earnings were a penny per share higher than analysts’ average forecast of $2.18 a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Revenue rose 4.7 percent to $5.34 billion, from $5.1 billion, a year earlier. Wall Street had anticipated $5.38 billion.

The company reported a 12 percent drop in coal volumes, reflecting a long slump in shipments that has affected U.S. railroads since the mild winter of 2011-2012. Strong shipments of chemicals and autos helped offset that decline. Smaller railroad CSX Corp. on Tuesday reported a 2 percent decline in third-quarter profit as coal shipments fell 16 percent.

Coal volume has been off since the mild winter of 2011-12 and CSX officials said they expect that weakness to continue into next year, by which time utilities will have burned off their inventories. Union Pacific shares are up about 38 percent over the past year, sharply outpacing the 13 percent rise of the Dow Jones transportation average.