UP profit soars; those furloughed will return

October 22, 2010

Union Pacific earnings for the third quarter 2010 soared by 51 percent from the third quarter 2009, the railroad told investors Oct. 21.

UP told Wall Street analysts it was the company’s most profitable quarter ever.

In reporting the record earnings, UP Chairman Jim Young told Wall Street analysts that the railroad had put some 1,100 furloughed employees back to work during the third quarter 2010, and that all furloughed workers likely would be back on the job in coming months.Young also told analysts that UP likely will hire additional employees in 2011, assuming the economy remains strong.

UP credited increased rail traffic (up 14 percent for the third quarter versus third quarter 2009), the ability to extract higher freight rates from shippers, and improved productivity as the reasons for the record profits.

Per share earnings for UP jumped from 1.01 in the third quarter 2009 to 1.56 per share in the third quarter 2010. This exceeded estimates of Wall Street firms.

UP reported a record operating ratio of 68.2 percent. Operating ratio is the railroad’s operating expenses expressed as a percentage of operating revenue, and is considered by economists as a basic measure of carrier profitability.

CSX earlier reported that its third quarter earnings soared by 43 percent.

Kansas City Southern reports third quarter earnings Oct. 26, and Norfolk Southern reports Oct. 27. As BNSF is now privately held, it does not report earnings separately.