OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Weak coal demand is still weighing on Norfolk Southern Corp's profits, and executives at the railroad said Tuesday it's extremely difficult to predict when coal shipments will increase.
The railroad based in Norfolk, Va., said its fourth-quarter profit declined 14 percent to $413 million, or $1.30 per share. That's down from $480 million, or $1.42 per share, a year earlier.
Its quarterly revenue dipped to $2.68 billion from the previous year's $2.8 billion.
Despite the declines, the results still topped Wall Street expectations.
According to FactSet, analysts had expected Norfolk Southern to post earnings of $1.19 per share on $2.67 billion in revenue.
Norfolk Southern CEO Wick Moorman said increases in intermodal shipments — where a railroad moves containers from ships and trucks — and those of chemical, automotive and housing-related materials helped offset a 23 percent decline in coal revenue.
"We remain focused on controlling costs and improving productivity while continuing to provide high service levels for our customers," Moorman said.
Norfolk Southern said 590 railroad employees are currently on furlough. The railroad said it plans to reduce costs this year by eliminating about 300 maintenance jobs because crews have become more efficient. The railroad said it plans to reduce its expenses by $100 million this year.
Partly because of the uncertainty about coal, Norfolk Southern plans to reduce its capital spending by 10 percent in 2013 from last year's $2.2 billion, but it will still invest $2 billion in its network.