Canadian Pacific Reduces Profit Target as Commodities Slump

  • ‘Modest volume growth’ is possible next year, COO says
  • Earnings miss analysts’ estimates as revenue drops 9.1%

Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. cut its profit target for the year as revenue from commodities dropped and western Canada’s grain shipments fell behind schedule because of heavy rain.

Earnings growth will grow only in the mid-single digits in percentage terms because of the delayed grain harvest, lower crude-oil volume and a stronger Canadian dollar, the Calgary-based carrier said in a statement Wednesday. The railroad previously forecast that profit would increase at least 10 percent from C$10.10 a share last year.

“Barring a horrific winter, which I pray about every night, I think we can have modest volume growth in 2017 with a much improved operating base, and you’re going to see some earnings growth in 2017,” Chief Operating Officer Keith Creel said on a conference call with analysts. 

Faced with an industrywide decline in cargo volume, Canada’s second-largest railroad has parked locomotives and reduced staff 13 percent. Cost cuts will help boost adjusted earnings 15 percent in 2017 from this year’s projected level, based on analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

‘Positive Signs’

“The good news is the volume picture does appear to be showing more positive signs so far early in Q4 with Canadian grain up sharply in the most recent week,” Cam Doerksen, a National Bank Financial analyst, said in a note to clients.

Canadian Pacific fell less than 1 percent to C$200.06 at 1:56 p.m. in Toronto. The shares earlier dropped as much as 2.7 percent, the biggest intraday decline in more than a month.

Commodities “look relatively strong across the board,” Chief Executive Officer Hunter Harrison said in a telephone interview, singling out coal, grain and potash. “There’s very little weakness in the commodities. Inventories are down, so there will have to be some replenishing there.” 

Canadian Pacific may increase its dividend as cash flow ramps up, he said.

“There will always be some debate between buybacks, dividends and special dividends,” Harrison said on the call. “My personal view is, maybe we were a little bit light on the dividend mix, and maybe the dividend will increase a little bit.”

Missing Estimates

Canadian Pacific reported that third-quarter adjusted earnings rose to C$2.73 a share. That fell short of the C$2.79 average of analyst estimates. Revenue slid 9.1 percent to C$1.55 billion ($1.18 billion), compared with the C$1.62 billion that had been predicted.

Revenue from Canadian grain, the company’s biggest business, tumbled 15 percent to C$222 million. Sales of metals, minerals and consumer products dropped 18 percent to C$142 million, while crude revenue plunged 88 percent to C$13 million.

Adjusted operating ratio, a measure of productivity that compares expenses to sales, improved to 57.7 percent from 59.9 percent, the company said.

Despite cutting its earnings forecast, Canadian Pacific may end the year with its lowest ever adjusted operating ratio -- 55 percent, Chief Financial Officer Nadeem Velani said on the call. Velani, who had been serving on an interim basis since last month, was officially named to the post earlier Wednesday.

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