FORT WORTH, Texas — Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. reported quarterly earnings of $1.55 per diluted share, which included a tax benefit of $0.25 per share related to the fourth-quarter donation of a portion of a line segment located in Washington State.
This compared to fourth-quarter 2008 earnings of $1.78 per diluted share, which included a fuel surcharge lag benefit of about $200 million.
“We have seen some improvement in volumes during the second half of 2009 and expect this gradual improvement to continue,” said Matthew K. Rose, BNSF Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer. “BNSF will continue to position itself to meet demand consistent with the pace of the economic recovery. And as we look forward into 2010, we are preparing to become part of the Berkshire Hathaway family, pending shareholder approval in February.”
Fourth-quarter 2009 freight revenues decreased $675 million, or 16 percent, to $3.57 billion compared with $4.25 billion in the prior year. The 16-percent decrease in revenues included a decrease in fuel surcharges of $388 million primarily driven by the unfavorable change in the fuel surcharge lag effect. The remaining variance was due to unit volumes, which were 12 percent lower as a result of the economic downturn, partially offset by improved yields.
Coal revenues decreased $181 million, or 17 percent, to $886 million on lower unit volumes driven by soft demand primarily due to economic conditions, low seasonal burn and weather-related challenges, partially offset by approximately $30 million for contract settlements and adjustments with specific customers. Agricultural Products revenues of $822 million were down $16 million, or 2 percent.
Improved unit volumes, primarily driven by strong soybean exports, and improved yields were more than offset by a decrease in fuel surcharges. Industrial Products revenues fell $197 million, or 21 percent, to $722 million, which included a decline in unit volumes driven primarily by lower demand for construction and building products, partially offset by improved yields.
Consumer Products revenues declined $281 million, or 20 percent, to $1.14 billion, on lower volumes due to economic conditions, partially offset by improved yields. Lower fuel surcharges impacted revenues in each of the business units.
Operating expenses for the fourth quarter of 2009 were $2.79 billion, a 14-percent reduction compared with fourth-quarter 2008 operating expenses of $3.26 billion. The $471 million decrease in operating expenses was principally due to strong cost controls, decreased unit volumes and lower fuel prices.
Full-year 2009 operating revenues were $14.0 billion compared to $18.0 billion for 2008. The decrease in operating revenues included lower fuel surcharges of $2.0 billion. Operating expenses for 2009 declined $3.4 billion, or 24 percent, over the prior year to $10.8 billion. Approximately half of the $3.4 billion reduction was due to lower fuel prices. The remaining decrease was due to strong cost controls and lower unit volumes.