CSX 3Q railroad profit jumps 32% as volume grows 3%

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CSX railroad

FILE – In this Feb. 12, 2018, file photo a CSX freight train passes through Homestead, Pa. CSX delivered a 32% jump in third-quarter profit as the volume of goods it hauled increased even beyond last fall’s strong level. The Jacksonville, Florida-based railroad said Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021 that it made $968 million, or 43 cents per share, in the quarter. That’s up from $736 million, or 32 cents per share, a year ago.(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — CSX delivered a 32% jump in third-quarter profit as the volume of goods it hauled increased even beyond last fall’s strong level.

The Jacksonville, Florida-based railroad said Wednesday that it made $968 million, or 43 cents per share, in the quarter. That’s up from $736 million, or 32 cents per share, a year ago.

Shipping volume was up 3% overall across CSX’s network. That came despite a 26% drop in automotive shipments as that industry struggles to maintain production because of the ongoing chip shortages. Agricultural shipments also slipped 5% but every other category of shipments was up in the quarter.

CSX’s profits topped the 38 cents per share that the analysts surveyed by FactSet predicted.

The railroad said its revenue grew 24% from last year to $3.29 billion, driven by the volume growth. That also topped the $3.06 billion that analysts predicted.

CSX said it was maintaining its outlook for double-digit revenue growth this year even without the impact of its recent acquisition of Quality Carriers.

Last year, CSX and the other major railroads were hit with a sharp decline in shipments during the initial months of the coronavirus outbreak, followed by a surge that began in the second half of last year and continues today.

So the volume comparisons this quarter were tougher than earlier this year because last fall the economy was roaring back to life as restrictions related to the pandemic were being lifted.

The railroad is also dealing with supply chain problems that have been delaying shipments nationwide because of the backlog at ports and a shortage of truck drivers to deliver containers of goods to their final destinations.

“We are committed to helping our customers overcome the current supply chain challenges,” CSX CEO Jim Foote said.

The railroad has taken a number of steps to keep freight moving even though the shipping system overall remains clogged. For instance, CSX has created 13 overflow railyards to help store some of the shipping containers that are waiting to be delivered to warehouses and unloaded.

Foote said the railroad is still having trouble hiring enough workers — just as many businesses are — which is limiting how much freight CSX can handle.

“Everything seems to be stretched thin right now at a time when there is great demand for people to work and very few people that want to work,” Foote said.

But the economy continues to surge. Foote said most businesses tell the railroad that demand is strong but companies are having trouble meeting that demand because of the supply chain challenges.

Edward Jones analyst Jeff Windau said the railroad’s results were very strong given all the challenges it faces, including the clogged supply lines, the shortage of workers and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

CSX is one of the nation’s largest railroads, and it operates more than 21,000 miles (34,000 kilometers) of track in 23 Eastern states and two Canadian provinces.

Shares in CSX Corp. were up nearly 3% in after-hours trading following the release of the earnings report.

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