CN books gains on grain in year-end ledger

“Significantly” higher freight volumes and revenues in grain and all other commodities, combined with higher freight rates and fuel surcharges, have Canadian National Railway posting improved profits in fiscal 2010.

Montreal-based CN on Tuesday posted full-year net income of $2.104 billion on $8.297 billion in gross revenue for 2010, up from $1.854 billion on $7.367 billion in 2009.

Of that revenue, CN’s grain and fertilizer handle accounted for $1.418 billion, up six per cent from 2009.

With grain and fertilizer carloads in 2010 up nine per cent at 579,000, revenue per carload slipped three per cent to $2,449, still second-highest among CN’s commodity groups behind forest products at $2,797.

In its fourth fiscal quarter ending Dec. 31, CN’s grain and fertilizer revenue was up 13 per cent at $401 million, while grain and fertilizer carloads rose 12 per cent to 164,000, for a one per cent rise in revenue per carload to $2,445.

Across all sectors, CN said, full-year carloadings were up 18 per cent over 2009 and revenue ton-miles were up by 12 per cent, while fourth-quarter carloadings and revenue ton-miles rose by over 10 per cent.

Looking ahead from a “sharp rise” in the railway’s workload in 2010, “we believe the North American economy will continue to recover in 2011, but at a slower pace than in 2010, and that global economic conditions will continue to improve,” CN CEO Claude Mongeau said in the company’s release.

That said, Mongeau also predicts “some headwinds” in 2011 from increased depreciation costs and a higher Canadian dollar.

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