CANADIAN NATIONAL RA

CNR
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CN Delivers Outstanding Fourth Quarter Results; Results show progress against Strategic Plan and confirm value of long-term; capital investments for a resilient and modern railroad

01/27/2022 | 10:07am

MONTREAL- CN (TSX: CNR) (NYSE: CNI) today reported its financial and operating results for the fourth quarter and year ended December 31, 2021.


CN delivered solid operating and financial performance across the board, with adjusted diluted earnings per share (EPS) growing 20 per cent in the fourth quarter to C$1.71, and adjusted operating ratio improving to a fourth quarter record of 57.9 per cent. (1) For the same period, the Company reported diluted EPS growth of 18 per cent to C$1.69, while operating ratio improved to 58.3 per cent.


'I would like to thank our dedicated team of railroaders for delivering once again despite extreme weather and disruptive global supply chain issues. The last months of 2021 allowed us to tangibly demonstrate our resilience, our ability to make significant progress against the goals of our Strategic Plan, and what it means to build the premier railway of the 21st century. Our previous strategic investments in safety, technology, and capacity enabled us to continue delivering high-quality service to customers while generating profitable growth and enhanced value to shareholders. While I'll be retiring, I am excited to see what CN's world-class team will accomplish as they continue to lead the next transformation of the industry by delivering high-quality service to our customers and to the communities we serve, while driving sustainable returns to shareholders over the long-term.'


JJ Ruest, President and Chief Executive Officer, CN


Financial results highlights


Fourth-quarter 2021 compared to fourth-quarter 2020


Revenues of C$3,753 million, an increase of C$97 million or three per cent.


Record fourth quarter operating income of C$1,566 million, an increase of 11 per cent, and record fourth quarter adjusted operating income of C$1,579 million, an increase of 12 per cent. (1)


Diluted EPS of C$1.69, an increase of 18 per cent, and adjusted diluted EPS of C$1.71, an increase of 20 per cent. (1)


Operating ratio, defined as operating expenses as a percentage of revenues, of 58.3 per cent, an improvement of 3.1 points, and record fourth quarter adjusted operating ratio of 57.9 per cent, an improvement of 3.5 points. (1)


Full-year 2021 compared to full-year 2020


Revenues of C$14,477 million, an increase of C$658 million or five per cent.


Operating income of C$5,616 million, an increase of 18 per cent, and adjusted operating income of C$5,622 million, an increase of seven per cent. (1)


Diluted EPS of C$6.89, an increase of 38 per cent, and record adjusted diluted EPS of C$5.94, an increase of 12 per cent. (1)


Operating ratio and adjusted operating ratio of 61.2 per cent, an improvement of 4.2 points and 0.7 points respectively. (1)


For the year ended December 31, 2021, after accounting for all direct and incremental expenses as well as income generated from the merger termination fee, CN recorded additional income of C$705 million (C$616 million after-tax) as a result of its strategic decision to bid for KCS.


Record free cash flow for the year ended December 31, 2021 of C$3,296 million compared to C$3,227 million for the same period in 2020. (1)


Return on invested capital (ROIC) of 16.4 per cent, an increase of 3.7 points, and adjusted ROIC of 14.1 per cent, an increase of 0.7 points. (1)


Operating performance


Fourth-quarter 2021 compared to fourth-quarter 2020


Operating performance improved across most measures in the fourth quarter of 2021 when compared to the same period in 2020.


Fuel efficiency improved by one per cent to a fourth quarter record of 0.876 US gallons of locomotive fuel consumed per 1,000 gross ton miles (GTMs).


Injury frequency rate (3) improved by two per cent and the accident rate (4) increased by 22 per cent.


Car velocity (car miles per day) decreased by three per cent.


Through network train speed (mph) improved by six per cent.


Through dwell (entire railroad, hours) improved by one per cent.


Train length (in feet) remained flat.


Full-year 2021 compared to full-year 2020


Operating performance improved across most measures in 2021 when compared to 2020, specifically through network train speed, through dwell and car velocity, despite negative impacts from the polar vortex in February, the forest fires in Western Canada over the summer and the washouts in British Columbia caused by severe rain and flooding, resulting in a network shutdown in the region for three weeks in the fourth quarter ('B.C. washouts'). The Company capitalized on its prior year's strategic investments in its infrastructure and its continued focus on efficiency and network fluidity. In addition, the Company's fuel initiatives allowed it to achieve an all-time record fuel efficiency of 0.867.


Fuel efficiency improved by three per cent to a record 0.867 US gallons of locomotive fuel consumed per 1,000 GTMs.


Injury frequency rate (3) improved by 19 per cent to a record 1.33 injuries per 200,00 person hours.


Accident rate (4) improved by three per cent.


Car velocity (car miles per day) improved by five per cent.


Through network train speed (mph) improved by four per cent.


Through dwell (entire railroad, hours) improved by eight per cent.


Train length (in feet) remained flat.


2022 outlook and shareholder distributions (2)


CN expects to deliver approximately 20 per cent adjusted diluted EPS growth, versus 2021 adjusted diluted EPS of C$5.94. (1) CN assumes total revenue ton miles (RTMs) in 2022 will increase in the low single-digit range versus 2021.


In 2022, CN plans to invest approximately 17 per cent of revenues in its capital program.


CN continues to target an operating ratio of approximately 57 per cent for 2022 as well as approximately 15 per cent of ROIC. (1)


CN is also targeting free cash flow of approximately C$4.0 billion in 2022 compared to C$3.3 billion in 2021. (1)


The Company's Board of Directors approved a 19 per cent increase to CN's 2022 quarterly cash dividend, effective for the first quarter of 2022. This is the 26th consecutive year of dividend increases, demonstrating our confidence in the long-term financial health of the Company. In addition, the Company's Board of Directors also approved a new Normal course issuer bid (NCIB) that permits CN to purchase, for cancellation, over a 12-month period up to 42 million common shares, starting on February 1, 2022, and ending no later than January 31, 2023.


Fourth-quarter 2021 revenues, traffic volumes and expenses


Revenues for the quarter increased by three per cent to C$3,753 million, when compared to the same period in 2020. The increase in revenues was mainly attributable to higher applicable fuel surcharge rates, freight rate increases and an increase in intermodal ancillary services; partly offset by lower volumes of Canadian grain in terms of RTMs compared to record volumes in the fourth quarter of 2020, the impact of the B.C. washouts and the negative translation impact of a stronger Canadian dollar.


RTMs, measuring the weight and distance of freight transported by CN, declined by 11 per cent. Freight revenue per RTM increased by 14 per cent, mainly driven by a significant decrease in the average length of haul, higher applicable fuel surcharge rates and freight rate increases; partly offset by the negative translation impact of a stronger Canadian dollar.


Operating expenses for the quarter decreased by three per cent to C$2,187 million, when compared to the same period in 2020. The decrease was mainly due to lower average headcount due to cost reduction initiatives and lower volumes, as well as the positive translation impact of a stronger Canadian dollar; partly offset by higher fuel costs.


Full-year 2021 revenues, traffic volumes and expenses


Revenues for 2021 increased by five per cent to C$14,477 million, when compared to 2020. The increase in revenues was mainly attributable to freight rate increases, higher applicable fuel surcharge rates and an increase in intermodal ancillary services; partly offset by the negative translation impact of a stronger Canadian dollar and lower volumes of Canadian grain in terms of RTMs compared to record volumes in 2020.


RTMs increased by one per cent despite the unfavorable impact of the ongoing supply chain challenges, the polar vortex in February, the forest fires and drought in Western Canada over the summer and the B.C. washouts in the fourth quarter of 2021. Freight revenue per RTM increased by four per cent, mainly driven by a decrease in the average length of haul, freight rate increases and higher applicable fuel surcharge rates; partly offset by the negative translation impact of a stronger Canadian dollar.


Operating expenses decreased by two per cent to C$8,861 million, mainly due to the C$137 million recovery recorded in the first quarter of 2021 related to the C$486 million loss on assets held for sale recorded in the second quarter of 2020, as well as the positive translation impact of a stronger Canadian dollar; partly offset by higher fuel costs due to rising fuel prices, higher incentive compensation and C$84 million of transaction-related costs resulting from the terminated CN Merger Agreement with KCS.


(1) Non-GAAP Measures


CN reports its financial results in accordance with United States generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). CN also uses non-GAAP measures in this news release that do not have any standardized meaning prescribed by GAAP, of adjusted net income, adjusted earnings per share, adjusted operating income and adjusted operating ratio (referred to as adjusted performance measures), free cash flow, ROIC and adjusted ROIC. These non-GAAP measures may not be comparable to similar measures presented by other companies. For further details of these non-GAAP measures, including a reconciliation to the most directly comparable GAAP financial measures, refer to the attached supplementary schedule, Non-GAAP Measures.


CN's full-year adjusted diluted EPS outlook (2) , ROIC outlook (2) and free cash flow outlook (2) excludes the expected impact of certain income and expense items, which are expected to be comparable adjustments to those made to the historical adjusted diluted EPS, ROIC and free cash flow. However, management cannot individually quantify on a forward-looking basis the impact of these items on its adjusted diluted EPS, ROIC or free cash flow because these items, which could be significant, are difficult to predict and may be highly variable. As a result, CN does not provide a corresponding GAAP measure for, or reconciliation to, its adjusted diluted EPS outlook, its ROIC outlook or its free cash flow outlook.


(2) Forward-Looking Statements


Certain statements included in this news release constitute 'forward-looking statements' within the meaning of the United States Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 and under Canadian securities laws, including statements based on management's assessment and assumptions and publicly available information with respect to CN. By their nature, forward-looking statements involve risks, uncertainties and assumptions. CN cautions that its assumptions may not materialize and that current economic conditions render such assumptions, although reasonable at the time they were made, subject to greater uncertainty. Forward-looking statements may be identified by the use of terminology such as 'believes', 'expects', 'anticipates', 'assumes', 'outlook', 'plans', 'targets' or other similar words.


Forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance and involve risks, uncertainties and other factors which may cause actual results, performance or achievements of CN to be materially different from the outlook or any future results, performance or achievements implied by such statements. Accordingly, readers are advised not to place undue reliance on forward-looking statements. Important risk factors that could affect the forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to, the duration and effects of the COVID-19 pandemic; general economic and business conditions, particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic; industry competition; inflation, currency and interest rate fluctuations; changes in fuel prices; legislative and/or regulatory developments; compliance with environmental laws and regulations; actions by regulators; increases in maintenance and operating costs; security threats; reliance on technology and related cybersecurity risk; trade restrictions or other changes to international trade arrangements; transportation of hazardous materials; various events which could disrupt operations, including illegal blockades of rail networks and natural events such as severe weather, droughts, fires, floods and earthquakes; climate change; labor negotiations and disruptions; environmental claims; uncertainties of investigations, proceedings or other types of claims and litigation; risks and liabilities arising from derailments; timing and completion of capital programs; and other risks detailed from time to time in reports filed by CN with securities regulators in Canada and the United States. Reference should be made to Management's Discussion and Analysis in CN's annual and interim reports, Annual Information Form and Form 40-F, filed with Canadian and U.S. securities regulators and available on CN's website, for a description of major risk factors.


Forward-looking statements reflect information as of the date on which they are made. CN assumes no obligation to update or revise forward-looking statements to reflect future events, changes in circumstances, or changes in beliefs, unless required by applicable securities laws. In the event CN does update any forward-looking statement, no inference should be made that CN will make additional updates with respect to that statement, related matters, or any other forward-looking statement.


(3) Per 200,000 person hours, based on Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) reporting criteria.


(4) Per million train miles, based on FRA reporting criteria.


2022 key assumptions


CN has made a number of economic and market assumptions in preparing its 2022 outlook. The Company assumes that North American industrial production for the year will increase in the mid single-digit range, and now assumes U.S. housing starts of approximately 1.6 million units (compared to its October 19, 2021 assumption that it would be approximately 1.57 million units) and now assumes U.S. motor vehicle sales of approximately 15.5 million units (compared to its October 19, 2021 assumption that it would be approximately 16.9 million units). For the 2021/2022 crop year, the grain crop in Canada was below its three-year average and the U.S. grain crop was in line with its three-year average. The Company assumes that the 2022/2023 grain crops in both Canada and the U.S. will be in line with their respective three-year averages. CN assumes total RTMs in 2022 will increase in the low single-digit range versus 2021. CN assumes continued pricing above rail inflation. CN assumes that in 2022, the value of the Canadian dollar in U.S. currency will be approximately $0.80, and now assumes that in 2022 the average price of crude oil (West Texas Intermediate) will be approximately in the US$65 - US$70 range per barrel (compared to its October 19, 2021 assumption that it would be approximately US$65 per barrel). In 2022, CN plans to invest approximately 17% of revenues in its capital program.


This earnings news release is available on the Company's website at www.cn.ca/financial-results and on SEDAR at www.sedar.com as well as on the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's website at www.sec.gov through EDGAR.


About CN


CN is a world-class transportation leader and trade-enabler. Essential to the economy, to the customers, and to the communities it serves, CN safely transports more than 300 million tons of natural resources, manufactured products, and finished goods throughout North America every year. As the only railroad connecting Canada's Eastern and Western coasts with the U.S. South through a 19,500-mile rail network, CN and its affiliates have been contributing to community prosperity and sustainable trade since 1919. CN is committed to programs supporting social responsibility and environmental stewardship.


Contacts:


Media Investment Community


Jonathan Abecassis Paul Butcher


Senior Manager Vice-President


Media Relations Investor Relations


(438) 455-3692 (514) 399-0052


media@cn.ca investor.relations@cn.ca


Read more at :


https://www.cn.ca/en/news/2022/01/cn-delivers-outstanding-fourth-quarter-results/


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