As global freight demand increases and American highways remain overcrowded and underfunded, CSX is building on a proven track record of success for shareholders by capitalizing on growth opportunities across nearly all of its markets, Chief Financial Officer Fredrik Eliasson told investors and analysts today at the UBS Best of Americas conference in London.
The company is leveraging the most diverse business mix in its history, supported by a rail network that connects Eastern ports to major consumption regions and reaches more than two-thirds of American consumers.
“By capitalizing on CSX’s network reach, adapting to evolving market conditions, including secular growth trends in intermodal and changes in the energy markets, and deploying cash within a balanced framework, CSX has delivered strong financial results for shareholders,” Eliasson said. “The investments CSX has made in market diversity and network reach, coupled with freight demand projections in the next decade, have positioned the company to continue delivering sustainable, profitable growth by capitalizing on the efficiency of rail to serve the needs of a growing global population.”
The company’s strong track record includes stock appreciation for shareholders of more than 150 percent since 2006, significantly outperforming the broader market. During that time, CSX nearly doubled earnings per share, quintupled dividends and bought back more than $8 billion in stock.
The company produced these results during a transformative period that included a global financial crisis and recession, the collapse of the housing market, and a transition in the energy markets that halved the company’s domestic coal volume.
Today, economic expansion is spurring broad-based growth across nearly all markets that CSX serves, as the housing market continues to recover, a second strong harvest is expected and the energy renaissance continues to drive growth in the industrial sector. At the same time, the company continues to leverage the secular trend in intermodal conversion and expand key facilities to handle increasing demand across the network. With a unique approach that combines a hub-and-spoke model with the more traditional corridor service, CSX is well-positioned to capitalize on the nearly 9 million truckloads in the East with the potential for intermodal conversion.
CSX continues to capitalize on these and other opportunities, and in the third quarter, overall volume is growing at a rate slightly higher than expected. The company is investing to accommodate this growth, and while the network remains stable, gradual improvement is expected to continue into 2015.
As a result of these factors, the company now expects earnings per share to be up slightly from the $0.45 recorded in the same period last year, despite the increased costs to keep the network fluid and restore higher service levels, as well as the cycling of certain prior-year benefits. In addition, CSX continues to expect modest full-year earnings per share growth for 2014.
Economic trends and the company’s continued commitment to leveraging high-growth opportunities underpin confidence in its ability to return to generating double-digit earnings growth and margin expansion beginning in 2015. Longer term, the company continues to target an operating ratio in the mid-60s, and will continue generating shareholder value by maintaining its focus on inflation-plus pricing, continually improving efficiency across the business, and capitalizing on economic trends.