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CP’s grain handle near flat in otherwise busy 2010

Grain traffic and grain revenue barely budged in an otherwise much livelier year for traffic on Canadian Pacific Railway’s (CP) track.

Releasing its 2010 and fourth-quarter (Q4) results Wednesday, Calgary-based CP reported full-year profits of $650.7 million on $4.982 billion in total revenues, up from $550 million on $4.402 billion in 2009.

CP saw a “significant increase in volumes” during 2010, with “strong demand for rail service across all lines of business,” CEO Fred Green said in the company’s release.

The company handled a total of 2.66 million carloads during the year, up 12.6 per cent from 2009 levels, with revenue per carload of $1,824, up 0.7 per cent.

The company’s revenue from grain freight, however, slipped slightly to $1.136 billion for the year, down just 0.1 per cent from 2009 levels.

Grain carloads were down 0.7 per cent, at 466,400, for revenue per carload of $2,435, up just 0.5 per cent.

CP’s traffic in sulphur and fertilizers, meanwhile, improved substantially, bringing in revenues of $474.8 million for 2010, up 53.5 per cent from 2009. Carloads were up 63 per cent at 177,200, for a 5.8 per cent decrease in revenue per carload to $2,679, still highest among CP’s business segments.

CP’s Q4 ending Dec. 31 saw “double-digit revenue growth, a continuation of our year-to-date trend,” Green said. Percentage-wise, CP’s sulfur and fertilizer freight saw the greatest increase.

Grain revenue in Q4, however, was up 2.1 per cent from the year-earlier period, at $299.8 million on 117,400 carloads (down 3.1 per cent), for revenue per carload of $2,554 (up 5.4 per cent).

Sulphur and fertilizer revenue in Q4, meanwhile, was up 55.1 per cent at $132 million on 47,900 carloads (up 50.2 per cent), for a 3.3 per cent increase in revenue per carload to $2.756.

The “irregular pace” of economic recovery from the global recession has affected CP’s 2010 financial results, the company cautioned Wednesday, in such a way that seasonal fluctuations “may not be consistent with those in prior years.”

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