Canadian Pacific Railway Limited’s (CP) earnings per share of 82 Canadian cents (approximately 81.8 cents) for the first quarter of 2012 surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate by almost a penny. Earnings per share registered a whopping 310% increase from 20 Canadian cents earned in the year-ago quarter. The outperformance was led by strong revenue growth and operating results.
Revenues increased 18.3% year over year to C$1.376 billion (approximately $1.367 billion) and breezed passed the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $1.28 billion, backed by a positive price mix and increased fuel surcharges.
On a year-over-year basis, Carload (volumes) increased 8% and revenue ton miles, which measures the relative weight and distance of rail freight transported, grew 11% mainly due to increased Coal and Automotive volumes.
Operating income shot up 151% year over year to C$274 million (approximately $273.4 million). Operating expenses went up 5% year over year primarily due to a substantial increase in fuel cost (up 19% year over year) followed by higher compensation expenses (up 7% year over year). Operating ratio (defined as operating expenses as a percentage of revenue) improved a staggering 1,050 basis points to 80.1% from 90.6% in the year-ago quarter.
Canadian Pacific exited the first quarter with cash and cash equivalents of C$77.0 million, which was much lower than C$311.0 million in the year-ago quarter. Long-term debt was C$4.68 billion compared with C$4.69 billion at year-end 2011.
We expect Canadian Pacific to continue delivering strong earnings growth aided by volume recoveries and pricing. The company is expected to benefit from its coal agreement with Teck Resources Limited (TCK) and recent liaisons with Canpotex and Canadian Tire. Further, major commodities will also deliver favorable results for the company.
However, competitive threats from major rivals like Canadian National Railway Company (CNI), a highly unionized workforce, regulatory pressures and expected near-term lows in certain commodity sections and cost burden may limit the upside of the stock.
The stock currently holds a short-term (1-3 months) Zacks #2 Rank (Buy). For the long term, we have a Neutral recommendation on Canadian Pacific.
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