Canadian Pacific Railway sees flat 2020 earnings on coronavirus hit

(Reuters) - Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd CP.TO said on Tuesday it expects full-year adjusted earnings to be flat due to the coronavirus pandemic and warned of rapidly slowing crude volumes.

Following the hit from the virus outbreak on business operations, Canada’s second-largest railroad operator now expects overall volumes to be down mid-single digits in 2020.

“We are expecting low demand environment in North America and globally until recovery starts to ramp back up,” a company executive said on a post-earnings conference call.

In the event of an extended or more widespread outbreak of the coronavirus, ratings agency Moody’s has warned railroads in North America will face lower demand for freight services, as the pandemic disrupts supply chains and slows down economic activity.

Oil inventories have been building for weeks after Saudi Arabia and Russia early in March failed to come to terms on extending output cuts as the coronavirus pandemic worsened. Since that time, the pandemic’s spread has cut fuel demand by roughly 30% worldwide. [O/R]

U.S. crude oil futures collapsed below $0 on Monday for the first time in history, amid a coronavirus-induced supply glut, ending the day at a minus $37.63 a barrel as desperate traders paid to get rid of oil.

However, Canadian Pacific’s freight revenue rose 15.9% to C$2 billion in the reported quarter as total carloads, the amount of freight loaded into cars during a specified period, rose 8.7%, boosted by higher energy, chemicals and plastic shipments.

Operating ratio, a measure of operating expenses as a percentage of revenue and a key metric for Wall Street, fell to 59.2% from 69.3% a year earlier. A lower operating ratio signals improved profitability.

On an adjusted basis, CP earned C$4.42 per share, beating analysts’ estimates of C$4.09, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

The company’s net income fell to C$409 million, or C$2.98 per share, in the first quarter ended March 31, from C$434 million, or C$3.09 per share, a year earlier. Revenue rose 15.6% to C$2.04 billion.

Reporting by Sanjana Shivdas in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernard Orr and Shounak Dasgupta