(Adds comments from investor conference call)
By Allison Lampert
Jan 24 (Reuters) - Canadian National Railway Co reported a 2 percent rise in quarterly revenue on Tuesday as the railroad moved higher volumes of Canadian grains and U.S. soybeans, refined petroleum products, finished vehicles and petroleum coke.
Canada’s largest railroad company said net income rose 8 percent to C$1.02 billion ($775.02 million), or C$1.32 per share, in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31 from C$941 million, C$1.18 per share, a year earlier.
Quarterly revenue rose to C$3.22 billion from C$3.17 billion.
In 2017, CN expects to deliver earnings per share growth in the mid-single-digit range compared with adjusted diluted earnings per share of C$4.59 in 2016.
“While the environment remains somewhat mixed, we do expect to see moderate volume growth,” Chief Executive Luc Jobin told analysts.
CN expects 2017 volume growth in the range of 3 percent to 4 percent, driven in part by finished vehicles such as SUVs and trucks, and strong grain shipments during the first half of the year. Prices are expected to rise above inflation as capacity tightens in 2017.
Jobin said he is taking “a cautious view” on volume for the second half of 2017.
Talks to change rules under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), initiated by U.S. President Donald Trump, are not expected to have a negative impact on Canada, or CN, according to Jobin.
“We don’t expect any significant change,” he said.
Montreal-headquartered CN also approved a 10 percent increase to CN’s 2017 quarterly cash dividend.
Revenues for 2016 dropped 5 percent, weighed down by declines in coal, metals and minerals, along with petroleum and chemicals.
Canadian National said its 2016 operating ratio, a key metric, improved to 55.9 percent, compared with 58.2 percent a year earlier. The lower the ratio, which measures operating costs as a percentage of revenue, the more efficient the railroad.
CN reported adjusted quarterly earnings of C$1.23 per share on revenues of C$3.22 billion.
Analysts, on average, had expected earnings of C$1.21 per share on revenues of C$3.24 billion according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. ($1 = 1.3161 Canadian dollars) (Reporting by Allison Lampert in Montreal and Komal Khettry in Bengaluru; Editing by Sandra Maler and Alan Crosby)