UP 4th Quarter Profits Jump 20%

MIAMI -- Union Pacific Corp., North America's biggest railroad operator, said on Thursday that fourth-quarter profits shot up 20 percent amid a strong pickup in coal shipments, a wire service reports.

The Omaha, Nebraska, firm, which also owns a trucking operation, said in a news release that quarterly net income was $275 million, or $1.06 share, up from $229 million, or 90 cents. The 2000 fourth quarter figures excluded an unusual $72 million charge for job cuts.

The share profits easily topped Wall Street forecasts, which had Union Pacific earning between 94 and 98 cents a share. The consensus forecast was 96 cents, according to nine analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial/First Call.

“Union Pacific had a great fourth quarter,” Chief Executive Officer Dick Davidson said in a news release. “The strength of Union Pacific's earnings is particularly evident when you consider the economic downturn facing the country.”

Operating revenues rose 2 percent to $3 billion from $2.95 billion.

Energy-related revenues, mainly for carrying coal, were up 13 percent from the same three months ended Dec. 31, 2000. Agricultural shipments, including a jump in grain shipments to Mexico, rose 8 percent, according to spokesman John Bromley.

Consumer-related revenues, such as industrial products, chemicals and automotive, dropped. Intermodal business, involving shipments carried on both rail and other transport forms, such as trucks, rose 1 percent.

Results were helped by a 10 percent rise in worker productivity and a 20 percent drop in fuel and utilities costs, Union Pacific said.

For all of 2001, net income rose 6 percent to $966 million, or $3.77 a share. For all of 2000, profits were $914 million, or $3.61 a share, before the after-tax charge for staff cuts.

Union Pacific shares closed on Wednesday at $59.95, up $1.45, or 2.5 percent. Union Pacific, which has ridden a broad rally in rail stocks fueled by hopes of a turnup in the U.S. economy, is up 12 percent over the last 12 months. By comparison, the Dow Jones U.S. Total Market Index has fallen about 17 percent.