Kansas City Southern 4Q profit tops forecasts

Freight railroad operator Kansas City Southern reports dip in 4Q profit but tops expectations

Associated Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Kansas City Southern's fourth-quarter profit fell 4 percent, but resurgent demand for autos helped the railroad operator top Wall Street expectations and shares jumped to an all-time high.

The railroad saw a 33 percent increase in revenue from hauling automotive products. Revenue from carrying chemicals and petroleum increased 14 percent. That helped offset softness hauling coal, which has struggled because of mild winter weather and cheap natural gas, a rival fuel to coal.

The industry was also dragged down by widespread drought, which hurt grain shipments.

"The company successfully navigated its way through a host of challenging economic and climatic issues to make 2012 one of the best years in its 125-year history," said President and CEO David Starling.

A banner year for the American auto industry helped, too, with 2012 marking the best performance in five years.

Kansas City Southern shares gained $4.04, or 4.6 percent, to close at $91.67.

Net income in the fourth quarter was $92 million, or 83 cents per share, compared with $96 million, or 87 cents per share, a year earlier. Excluding one-time items such as debt-retirement expenses, the company said it would have earned 92 cents per share.

Analysts, who usually exclude items, expected 82 cents per share, according to FactSet.

Revenue was $578.4 million, up 7 percent and above analysts' forecast of $563.7 million.

For the year, revenue rose from $2.1 billion to a company record $2.2 billion, and net income rose from $328.7 million, to $377.1 million.

Separately, rival rail operator CSX Corp. also said continued weak coal demand contributed to a 3 percent decline in fourth-quarter net income. Coal revenue fell 18 percent to $747 million in the fourth quarter. The increases in automotive, intermodal and crude oil shipments weren't quite enough to offset coal's decline. The results still beat Wall Street expectations as other sectors improved.

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