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Norfolk Southern (NSC) Beats on Q1 Earnings & Revenues

Leading U.S. railroad operator Norfolk Southern Corp. NSC reported first-quarter 2016 earnings of $1.29 per share, up 29% year over year and also above the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 97 cents.

Total operating revenue of $2,420 million was down 5.7% year over year but managed to surpass the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $2,397 million.

Operating income came in at $723 million, down 19% year over year. Meanwhile, operating expenses fell 13.5% year over year to $1,697 million. Operating ratio in the reported quarter stood at 70.1% versus 76.4% in the prior-year quarter.

Segments

On a year-over-year basis, Coal revenues declined 23% to $349 million. A soft coal export market, declining natural gas prices and unusually mild winter temperature resulted in a 23% decline in volumes.

General Merchandise revenues increased 1.9% year over year to $1,549 million.

Intermodal revenues deteriorated 12% year over year to $522 million, largely because of a 5% decline in volumes.

Cash Position

Norfolk exited 2015 with cash and cash equivalents of $589 million compared with $1,101 million at the end of 2014. The company had long-term debt of $9,398 million versus $9,393 million at end-2014. Free cash flow at the end of the first quarter of 2016 totaled $481 million compared with $239 million in the same quarter last year.

Our Take

We are concerned about the lackluster performance by the company’s coal segment. Further, the tightening of railroad regulations and intensifying competitive pressure are potent headwinds.

Norfolk, which operates alongside the likes of Union Pacific Corporation UNP, CSX Corp. CSX and Kansas City Southern KSU, carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).

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KANSAS CITY SOU (KSU): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
CSX CORP (CSX): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
UNION PAC CORP (UNP): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
NORFOLK SOUTHRN (NSC): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
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