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Jan 16, 2019

CSX announces US$5B share buyback as profit meets expectations

CSX

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OMAHA, Neb. -- CSX Corp. (CSX.O) delivered a fourth-quarter profit of US$843 million, which was lower than last year when tax reforms were approved but in line with Wall Street expectations.

The Jacksonville, Florida-based railroad said Wednesday it earned US$1.01 per share net income in the quarter that ended Dec. 31. That's down from last year's US$4.14 billion, or US$4.62 per share, which was affected by tax reforms and restructuring charges. Without last year's one-time gains, CSX said earned 64 cents per share in fourth quarter 2017.

CSX's profits were in line with the US$1.01 earnings per share that analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research predicted.

CSX is nearly two years into an operational overhaul that began under previous CEO Hunter Harrison, who died in December 2017. His successor, Jim Foote, says there are still many opportunities to reduce expenses and improve operations at CSX. He says those will allow it to haul more volume with fewer locomotives and employees by operating on a tighter schedule.

"The CSX transformation story is still early," Foote said.

The freight railroad posted revenue of US$3.14 billion in the period, surpassing Street forecasts. Seven analysts surveyed by Zacks expected US$3.13 billion.

CSX said it hauled 3 per cent more carloads of freight in the fourth quarter.

Edward Jones analyst Dan Sherman said CSX delivered solid profits 2018, and he expects it to continue improving its operations, which will help it increase the shipping rates it charges.

The railroad announced a new US$5 billion stock repurchase program Wednesday after its previous buyback program was completed earlier than expected.

CSX operates more than 21,000 miles of track in 23 Eastern states and two Canadian provinces.

CSX slipped US$1.73, or about 2.6 per cent, to US$63.65 in after-market trading following the earnings report. Through the close of regular-session trading Wednesday, CSX's shares are up 12.5 per cent in the past 12 months.