Union Pacific Profits Drop 9%, But It Still Sees Growth in 2021


A Union Pacific train travels through Union, July 31, 2018. Union Pacific’s first-quarter profit declined 9% as the railroad delivered less freight and its revenue fell. The Omaha, Nebraska-based company said Thursday, April 22, 2021, that it earned $1.34 billion, or $2 per share, in the quarter. (AP)
By 
Josh Funk
The Associated Press

Union Pacific’s first-quarter profit declined 9% as the railroad delivered less freight and its revenue fell, but it said the economy is steadily improving.

The Omaha-based company said last Thursday that it earned $1.34 billion, or $2 per share, in the quarter. That’s down from $1.47 billion, or $2.15 per share, a year earlier. The results did not meet Wall Street expectations as it delivered 1% less freight and had to deal with the severe cold in February. Analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research had projected per-share earnings of $2.06. The railroad estimated that costs related to the weather weighed down its results by 16 cents per share.

Revenue fell 4% to $5 billion, also short of Wall Street expectations as coal and industrial revenue weakened. Company shares fell more than 3%.

The railroad said it expects shipping volume to grow roughly 6% overall in 2021 as the economy recovers from the pandemic and production increases. “The economy is definitely strengthening. What we are seeing is the positive is it is more broad-based and continuous,” CEO Lance Fritz said.

Despite a quarter dragged down by severe weather and higher fuel costs, Citi research analyst Christian Wetherbee said UP’s outlook suggests the company expects to ride along with an economy on the mend.

With the Canadian Pacific and Canadian National railroads trying to acquire Kansas City Southern railroad, Fritz said he is concerned that either deal might hurt competition if it restricts access to customers Union Pacific serves in Mexico and elsewhere.

Fritz said he is also concerned that federal regulators at the Surface Transportation Board could impose conditions on either deal that would hurt competition across the industry.

Union Pacific is one of the nation’s largest railroads. It operates 32,400 miles of track in 23 Western states.

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