CP’s net income was C$598 million (US$453 million), or $4.41 per diluted share, for the third quarter of 2020, compared with $618 million, or $4.46 per diluted share, in the third quarter of 2019. This was a 3% decline year-over-year. All figures are in Canadian dollars.
“This quarter played out as we expected. Following our record Q2 performance, we steadily built momentum through the quarter and finished strong,” said CP President and CEO Keith Creel. “Thanks to our industry-leading operating model and world-class employees, we have persevered throughout 2020 and have significant momentum as we approach 2021.”
Revenue slipped 6% to $1.86 billion. Of that, freight revenue also fell 6% to $1.82 billion as revenue gains for grain, potash, forest products and automotive weren’t enough to offset losses for coal and the categories of metals, minerals and consumer products, and energy, plastics and chemicals. Intermodal revenue was also down year-over-year.
Meanwhile, a 2% reduction in operating expenses helped to offset the revenue decline. Operating expenses were $1.08 billion in the third quarter, compared with $1.11 billion a year ago.
CP’s operating ratio rose slightly to 58.2% compared with 56.1% in the third quarter of 2019. Operating ratio is a metric that can be used to gauge the financial health of a company, with a lower percentage implying improved health.
“Our third quarter highlighted the strength of our bulk franchise and the power of our domestic intermodal and automotive operations,” Creel said. “Additionally, we built on our record average train weights and train lengths from Q2 and carried that through Q3. We remain committed to innovating and to making incremental, sustainable gains.”
Service metrics were mixed in the third quarter. Average terminal dwell time rose 16% to 6.7 hours from 5.8 hours year-over-year, but average train speed was roughly steady, falling 0.1% to 22.5 mph from 22.7 mph.
Average train weights rose 7% and average train lengths were up 9%, two qualities that CP characterized as “strong operational performance.”
CP’s updated outlook for 2020 includes expectations that revenue-ton miles will be in the low-single-digits. Freight revenue per revenue-ton mile is in cents. CP also expects adjusted diluted earnings per share (EPS) growth will be in the mid-single digits. Capital expenditures will remain at around $1.6 billion.
“We continue to deliver for our customers and for the North American economy,” Creel said. “With Q4 volumes up 8 percent quarter to date and a strong outlook for the remainder of the year, we have raised our guidance to at least mid-single-digit adjusted diluted EPS growth. Given the strength of our operating model and growing momentum across our business, I remain confident that the best is yet to come.”