CN Rail downgrades earnings outlook

Canadian National Railway reported much higher than expected net profit in the first quarter but said lower commodity shipments weighed on revenue and have prompted a downward revision to the company's 2016 financial outlook.

The country's largest railway said net earnings in the three months ended March 31 were up 13 per cent at $792 million or $1 per diluted share, compared with $704 million or 86 cents per diluted share in the comparable 2015 period.

But revenue slumped four per cent to $2.964 billion from $3.098 billion, with declines of two per cent in grains and fertilizers, 10 per cent in petroleum and chemicals, 18 per cent in metals and minerals and 42 per cent in coal.

Automotive shipment revenues grew 18 per cent and forest products rose 11 per cent.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters had expected net income of $734.99 million or 92 cents a share on revenue of $3.015 billion.

In its financial report issued Monday after markets closed, CN noted that although it reports in Canadian dollars, a large portion of its revenues and expenses are denominated in U.S. dollars. On a constant currency basis, it said net income for the first quarter would have been lower by $57 million or seven cents per share.

Meanwhile, CN said weaker than expected freight demand in certain markets and the strengthening of the Canadian dollar relative to the U.S. dollar have prompted a downward revision to CN's 2016 financial outlook.

Under its revised outlook, CN now aims to deliver 2016 earnings per share in line with last year's adjusted diluted earnings per share of $4.44. That compares with a Jan. 26 outlook that called for mid-single digit growth in earnings per share this year.

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