Railroad Traffic Points to Growing Economy

North American rail traffic rose 10.6% in week ended June 19, AAR says

The Association of American Railroads, AAR, reported U.S. rail traffic for the week ending June 19.

For this week, total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 514,112 carloads and intermodal units, up 12.5% compared with the same week last year.

Total carloads for the week ending June 19 were 232,144 carloads, up 15.1% compared with the same week in 2020, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 281,968 containers and trailers, up 10.4% compared to 2020.

For some rail traffic categories, percentage changes for the current week compared with the same week in 2020 are inflated because of the widespread shutdowns – and subsequent large reduction in rail volumes – that impacted many economic sectors last year at this time.

North American rail volume for the week ending June 19, on 12 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 329,907 carloads, up 11.3% compared with the same week last year, and 369,258 intermodal units, up 10% compared with last year.

Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 699,165 carloads and intermodal units, up 10.6%.

North American rail volume for the first 24 weeks of 2021 was 16,805,420 carloads and intermodal units, up 12.1% compared with 2020.

Publicly traded companies in the space include CSX (CSX), Canadian National (CNI), Canadian Pacific (CP), Genesee & Wyoming (GWR), Kansas City Southern (KSU), Norfolk Southern (NSC) and Union Pacific (UNP).

Dow Jones Transport Index is up 19 points to 14,959.

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Canadian Pacific approaches Kansas City Southern again

Canadian Pacific says prepared to re-engage with Kansas City Southern

Canadian Pacific (CP) sent the following letter to the Surface Transportation Board in response to the Kansas City Southern (KSU) Board of Directors’ decision to terminate the Merger Agreement with CP:

Canadian Pacific wants to merge with Kansas City Southern

“I am writing on behalf of the Canadian Pacific Applicants in this proceeding to advise the Board and Interested Parties of the CP Applicants’ intentions in light of Kansas City Southern’s decision to terminate the merger agreement between CP and Kansas City Southern and to enter a merger agreement with Canadian National Railway.

For the reasons explained below, CP intends to proceed to prepare and file its Application in this docket seeking Board authority to control KCS and its U.S. rail carrier subsidiaries.

The decision of KCS’s board of directors to designate CN’s offer a “superior proposal” reflects the extreme price CN has offered KCS in order to extinguish CP’s proposed transaction,2 coupled with CN’s undertaking to attempt to absolve KCS and its shareholders of the regulatory risks associated with CN’s proposed acquisition through the use of a voting trust. In order to neutralize the regulatory risks posed by CN’s proposed transaction from the perspective of KCS’s shareholders,

CN’s agreement to acquire KCS is conditioned on CN’s ability to acquire KCS shares in advance of receiving Board approval to control KCS via the use of a voting trust.

On May 17, the Board ruled in Finance Docket No. 36514 that CN’s proposed acquisition of KCS is subject to the 2001 Major Merger rules, and, accordingly, that CN’s proposed use of a voting trust requires formal STB approval under 49 U.S.C. Section1180.4(b)(4)(iv).

The Combined network covers Gulf of Mexico to Pacific Ocean

The Board explained that it would “take a more cautious approach to a voting trust” in the CN proceeding and that its “consideration of whether the proposed use of a voting trust in a potential CN-KCS transaction is ‘consistent with the public interest’ would be informed by argument on both the potential benefits and costs of such use.”

CP believes that CN cannot demonstrate that its proposed use of a voting trust would be “consistent with the public interest” for reasons CP has already summarized and will address further in its comments on CN’s proposal in Finance Docket No. 36514, once CN refiles its motion seeking Board approval and the Board establishes a comment period.

Because STB Voting Trust Approval is a condition to closing, were CN unable to use a voting trust, CN’s proposed acquisition of KCS could not be consummated. KCS would then face the choice of whether to renegotiate the CN-KCS merger agreement in order to proceed with CN without the use of a voting trust.

Were KCS presented with the question of how to proceed following a decision by the Board not to approve CN’s proposed use of a voting trust, CP anticipates being available to engage with KCS to enter into another agreement to acquire KCS.

CP expects that such an agreement would be in substantially the form of the merger agreement previously entered into by CP and KCS, which was previously noticed in this docket and reviewed by the Board in connection with its approval of CP’s proposed voting trust agreement.

Accordingly, CP intends to proceed forward with the preparation of its Application in this docket seeking Board authority to acquire control of KCS.

CP believes that pursuing its Application is in the best interests of both KCS and the public so that the pro-competitive CP/KCS transaction can proceed to be reviewed by the Board and – in the event KCS’s agreement with CN is terminated or CN is otherwise unable to acquire control of KCS – a potential acquisition of KCS by CP could be implemented without undue delay, all in accord with the rulings and processes already established by the Board in this docket.

CP looks forward to establishing that its acquisition of control of KCS would be consistent with the public interest.”

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Merger in the railroad space!

Canadian Pacific to buy Kansas City Southern in $29B deal

Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) and Kansas City Southern (KSU) announced they have entered into a merger agreement, under which CP has agreed to acquire KCS in a stock and cash transaction representing an enterprise value of approximately $29B, which includes the assumption of $3.8B of outstanding KCS debt.

The transaction, which has the unanimous support of both boards of directors, values KCS at $275 per share, representing a 23% premium, based on the CP and KCS closing prices on March 19, 2021.

Following the closing into a voting trust, common shareholders of KCS will receive 0.489 of a CP share and $90 in cash for each KCS common share held.

Following final approval from the Surface Transportation Board, the transaction will combine the two railroads to create the first rail network connecting the U.S., Mexico, and Canada.

Canadian Pacific Rails

Joining seamlessly in Kansas City, Mo., in America’s heartland, CP and KCS together will connect customers via single-network transportation offerings between points on CP’s system throughout Canada, the U.S. Midwest, and the U.S. Northeast and points on KCS’ system throughout Mexico and the South Central U.S.

While remaining the smallest of six U.S. Class 1 railroads by revenue, the combined company will be a much larger and more competitive network, operating approximately 20,000 miles of rail, employing close to 20,000 people and generating total revenues of approximately $8.7 billion based on 2020 actual revenues.

Combined Companies Rails

The combination is expected to be accretive to CP’s adjusted diluted EPS in the first full year following CP’s acquisition of control of KCS, and is expected to generate double-digit accretion upon the full realization of synergies thereafter.

To fund the stock consideration of the merger, CP will issue 44.5 million new shares.

The cash portion will be funded through a combination of cash-on-hand and raising approximately $8.6B in debt, for which financing has been committed.

As part of the merger, CP will assume approximately $3.8B of KCS’ outstanding debt.

Following the closing into trust, CP expects that its outstanding debt will be approximately $20.2B. Pro forma for the transaction, CP estimates its leverage ratio against 2021E street consensus EBITDA to be approximately 4.0-times with the assumption of KCS debt and issuance of new acquisition-related debt.

In order to manage this leverage effectively, CP will be temporarily suspending its normal course issuer bid program, and expects to produce approximately $7B of levered free cash flow over the next three years.

CP estimates its long-term leverage target of approximately 2.5x to be achieved within 36 months after closing into trust.

The combined company will remain committed to maintaining strong investment grade credit ratings while continuing to return capital for the benefit of shareholders.

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Berkshire Hathaway reports record profit

Buffett also said in his annual shareholder letter to “never bet against America.”

Warren Buffett Berkshire Hathaway’s (BRK.A, BRK.B) fourth quarter profits rose, with its net earnings rising to $38.5B, or $23,015 a Class A share equivalent, up almost 23% from the previous year’s profit of $29.2B, or $17,909 a share.

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Operating earnings, which exclude some investment results, rose to $5 billion from $4.4 billion the year before.

Buffett also said in his annual shareholder letter to “never bet against America.”

“In its brief 232 years of existence… there has been no incubator for unleashing human potential like America,” he added.

“Despite some severe interruptions, our country’s economic progress has been breathtaking. Our unwavering conclusion: Never bet against America.” Buffett said the conglomerate owns the biggest amount of U.S. assets by value than any other company in the country.

Berkshire Hathaway also bought back a record amount of company stock last year. During the fourth quarter, the company bought back about $9B shares for a total 2020 repurchase of $24.7B.

Buffett said in his annual shareholder letter that repurchases have continued since year-end and “is likely to further reduce its share count in the future.”

“That action increased your ownership in all of Berkshire’s businesses by 5.2% without requiring you to so much as touch your wallet,” the letter reads.

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Truck sales decline in November

Classes 5-8 truck orders soften in November amid trade and tariff worries

Truck sales downturn could be canary in the coal mine

There are eight classes of commercial motor vehicles in the United States, and they’re divided into three, more general categories: light-duty, medium-duty, and heavy-duty. Commercial motor vehicles or trucks that operate on U.S. highways can be classified based on their gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR).

ACT Research said in an earlier report:

“Preliminary November data show that Classes 5-8 net order volumes were uniformly soft. Combined NA Classes 5-8 intake fell 15% m/m and 38% y/y in November on a nominal basis. Preliminary North America Class 8 net order data show the industry booked 17,500 units in November, down 20% from October, while Classes 5-7 orders fell 8% m/m, to 15,300 units.

Complete industry data for November, including final order numbers, will be published by ACT Research in mid-December.

Various Classes of Vehicles, Stockwinners

ACT’s State of the Industry:

Classes 5-8 report provides a monthly look at the current production, sales, and general state of the on-road heavy and medium duty commercial vehicle markets in North America. It differentiates market indicators by Class 5, Classes 6-7 chassis and Class 8 trucks and tractors, detailing measures such as backlog, build, inventory, new orders, cancellations, net orders, and retail sales.

Additionally, Class 5 and Classes 6-7 are segmented by trucks, buses, RVs, and step van configurations, while Class 8 is segmented by trucks and tractors with and without sleeper cabs.

This report includes a six-month industry build plan, backlog timing analysis, historical data from 1996 to the present in spreadsheet format, and a ready-to-use graph package.

A first-look at preliminary net orders is also published in conjunction with this report.

“Preliminary November data show that Class 8 net orders failed to sustain October’s encouraging start to the order season,” said Tim Denoyer, ACT’s Vice President and Senior Analyst.

He continued, “The freight market downturn worsened in the past month and uncertainty surrounding trade and tariffs continue to weigh on truck buyers’ psyches. With rising pressure on carrier profits from the combined impact of lower rates and the recent, rather sudden jump in insurance premia, recent events have not developed in the industry’s favor.” Denoyer concluded,

“While private fleets continue to add capacity on the retail end, the market is increasingly heeding for-hire price signals and the stage is being set to right-size the fleet, bringing it closer to equilibrium with the work to be done.”

Historically, Dow Jones Transports have sold off prior to the rest of the market. The .djt has turned bearish as is shown above.

Publicly traded companies in the space include ArcBest (ARCB), J.B. Hunt (JBHT), Knight-Swift (KNX), Old Dominion (ODFL), Swift Transportation (SWFT), Werner (WERN), Paccar (PCAR), Navistar (NAV)and Cummins (CMI).

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CSX shares downgraded following CEO’s death

CSX CEO death raises questions about strategy, M&A potential

CSX CEO passes away

Shares of CSX (CSX) are off their worst levels of the session and trading fractionally higher following the death of the company’s CEO over the weekend.

 

While the news prompted a stock downgrade to Hold at TD Securities, JPMorgan analyst Brian Ossenbeck argued that Hunter #Harrison’s legacy will continue at CSX and that he sees downside in the stock being limited.
Meanwhile, Cti analyst Christian #Wetherbee pointed out that the death of the company CEO may increase the likelihood of a merger with Canadian Pacific (CP).

 

MOVING TO THE SIDELINES:

Following the unexpected medical leave of absence and subsequent death of CEO Hunter Harrison, TD Securities downgraded CSX to Hold from Buy and lowered its price target on the shares to $54 from $63. The firm argued that senior management now lacks a member with an operating background.

 

LIMITED DOWNSIDE:

Meanwhile, JPMorgan’s #Ossenbeck told investors that he believes Hunter Harrison’s legacy will continue at CSX, reiterating an Overweight rating and $63 price target on the shares. The analyst said he estimates downside in the stock to be limited to $45-$48 based on his below consensus forecasts, with U.S. tax reform and a “tighter truck market” providing positive near-term catalysts.

 

Nonetheless, Ossenbeck acknowledged that the lack of a defined management succession plan remains a near-term hurdle for CSX, and will not likely be addressed until the investor day in first quarter of 2018.

 

Voicing a similar opinion, Baird analyst Benjamin #Hartford said he believes the shares should find support in the $48-$50 level, which is where shares traded during previous periods of transition for the company.

 

While Hunter Harrison’s passing “undoubtedly” introduces incremental risk and uncertainty to the trajectory of CSX’s operating ratio improvement, and it is even more so a “show-me” story given the absence of his leadership, Hartford noted that the PSR model has been put into place, the company employs the talent needed to execute the plan, and there is no reason to diminish CSX’s expectations regarding the pace and magnitude of future progress. He reiterated an Outperform rating and $58 price target on the shares.

 

MERGER WITH CANADIAN PACIFIC

In a research note of his own, Citi’s Wetherbee told investors that he believes the death of Harrison may increase the likelihood of CSX attempting to merge with Canadian Pacific. However, the analyst noted that he is not sure a deal could be accomplished due to elevated regulatory risk.

 

Canadian Pacific and CSX may merge. Stockwinners.com
Canadian Pacific and CSX may merge.

A “large portion of the heavy lifting” related to the start of CSX’s turnaround occurred in 2017, allowing 2018 to be a year focused on executing, he contended, adding that he still believes in the company’s long-term potential. Wetherbee also pointed out that he sees Jim Foote as capable of executing Hunter’s vision, while noting that CSX’s board could move to add seasoned executives in the coming months. The analyst reiterated a Buy rating and $58 price target on the shares.

 

PRICE ACTION

In Monday afternoon trading, shares of CSX are fractionally lower to about $53 per share.


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Barron’s is bullish on Verizon

Barron’s, the weekly publication owned by the Wall Street Journal, in its latest issue mentions several names: 

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BULLISH  MENTIONS

 

Rising sales may lift Mondelez (MDLZ)- There is reason to hope that growth is returning to Mondelez, with sales perking up in its latest quarter, especially in the developing markets, Bill Alpert writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s. If the company and its new CEO can deliver sales growth, many analysts think Mondelez’s stock could rise to $50 or more, the report notes.

Wheat prices may rise amid cold December – A “brutal cold snap” in December is likely and could lift winter wheat prices higher than $5 a bushel, a rally that would aid the farm economy that has been hurt by steadily falling wheat prices since mid-2012, Simon Constable writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s. Among companies that benefit from higher crop prices are fertilizer makers Mosaic (MOS) and Agrium (AGU), the report notes.

Infrastructure stocks should rise if Congress passes legislation – It may be easy to be skeptical about President Donald Trump’s ambitious effort to rebuild aging bridges, roads and other elements of the country’s infrastructures, but there is reason for hope, John Kimelman writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s. For investors in a group of about a dozen infrastructure companies such as Vulcan Materials (VMC) and Fluor (FLR), legislation cannot be considered soon enough, he contends. Other companies that may get meaningful boosts include Martin Marietta Materials (MLM), Aecom (ACM), Jacobs Engineering Group (JEC), Granite Construction (GVA), Eagle Materials (EXP), and U.S. Concrete (USCR), Barron’s notes, adding that even equipment companies like Caterpillar (CAT) could benefit.

Tencent still has upside – While Tencent (TCEHY) is up 125% this year, the stock still has lots of upside, Assif Shameen writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s.

Verizon could return 20% over the next year – A long price war in wireless is easing, which has left Verizon’s (VZ) shares looking cheap, Jack Hough writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s. They could return 20%, including a dividend yield of 5%, over the next year, he adds.

BEARISH  MENTIONS

Challenges at HP Enterprise loom large– In a follow-up story, Barron’s says that as HP Enterprise (HPE) CEO Meg Whitman prepares to retire in February, the company no longer “has to shut the lights at night to save money.” However, plenty of challenges remain, notwithstanding Whitman’s moves to reconfigure the business, the report notes. The challenges at HP Enterprise loom large, as cloud-computing leaders Amazon (AMZN), Microsoft (MSFT) and Alphabet’s (GOOGL; GOOG) increasingly buy less HPE gear because they are building their own, the report notes.


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JB Hunt and Wal-Mart to use Tesla’s trucks

J.B. Hunt reports reservation to purchase multiple Tesla Semi tractors

Wal-Mart says has pre-ordered 10 units of Tesla’s new heavy-duty electric vehicle for Wal-Mart Canada

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5n9xafjynJA&w=640&h=360]

J.B. Hunt Transport Services (JBHT) announced that it placed a reservation to purchase multiple Tesla (TSLA) Semi tractors to be manufactured by Tesla.

The electric tractor was unveiled by Tesla at an event on November 16.

J.B. Hunt plans to deploy electric tractors to its Intermodal and Dedicated Contract Services divisions to support operations on the West Coast.

In addition to the electric truck investment, J.B. Hunt is also supporting sustainable initiatives such as reducing engine idle time, governing top speed limits, converting over-the-road shipments to intermodal, engineering fleet routes that maximize efficiency, and using biodiesel fuels when possible.

In April, J.B. Hunt announced a five-year, $500M commitment to enhancing operating systems, developing cloud infrastructure, and creating innovative and disruptive technologies.

The additional investment in Tesla trucks further demonstrates J.B. Hunt’s commitment to meeting the needs of an evolving supply chain and introducing new technology for its customers and employees.

TESLA  TRUCKS

Tesla unveiled a sleek electric semi truck with semi-autonomous capabilities and a new roadster.

Emphasizing the truck’s “badass” performance, Tesla CEO Elon Musk pitched the new Tesla Semi as the safest, most comfortable truck ever.

The semi is a fully electric Class 8 truck, a category of freight vehicles that weigh more than 33,000 pounds, including tractor-trailer rigs that form the backbone of commercial road freight. This one, Musk said, can haul 80,000 pounds.

The truck can gain 400 miles of range with just a 30-minute charge from a “megacharger” and its operating cost per mile is 20 percent below that of conventional diesel semi trucks.

Tesla’s offering has a range of 500 miles at maximum weight at highways speeds, much higher than early spec reports of a range of 300 miles. Musk said the truck has a coefficient of drag of just 0.36, making it more aerodynamic than the Bugatti Chiron, a $2.7 million supercar with a drag coefficient of 0.38.

At the end of the event, Musk also presented the company’s new four-seat roadster, a car with 620 miles of range that can go from zero to 60 mph in 1.8 seconds. “The point of doing this is to give a hardcore smackdown to gasoline cars,” Musk said. It’s also claimed to be the fastest production car ever made.

ANALYST COMMENTS

Morgan Stanley analyst Ravi Shanker said Tesla “unveiled the future of trucking” with its Class 8 semi truck, which he contends appears to best current diesel truck performance in “almost every measurable way.” While what he heard was very impressive, questions remain about battery size, launch partners and third-party logistics services, said Shanker, who adds that “its now time to deliver.” The firm has an Equal Weight rating and $379 price target on Tesla shares.

Wal-Mart Gets Onboard

Following Tesla’s (TSLA) unveiling of a new electric semi-tractor-trailer last night, Wal-Mart issued the following statement to CNBC: “We have a long history of testing new technology – including alternative-fuel trucks – and we are excited to be among the first to pilot this new heavy-duty electric vehicle. We believe we can learn how this technology performs within our supply chain, as well as how it could help us meet some of our long-term sustainability goals, such as lowering emissions.”

Wal-Mart says has pre-ordered 10 units of Tesla’s new heavy-duty electric vehicle for Wal-Mart Canada.

TSLA closed at $313.00   JBHT closed at $102.98


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CSX postpones investors conference

CSX postpones investor conference, announces share buyback

CSX postpones investor conference, announces share buyback. See Stockwinners.com

Following yesterday’s announcement of executive changes including naming Jim Foote as COO, CSX Corporation (CSX) is postponing its scheduled October 30th Investor Conference to a later date.

“Our team continues to build momentum and the addition of Jim increases my confidence in our ability to serve customers and deliver shareholder value,” said Hunter Harrison, president and CEO.

“I am more confident than ever in CSX’s ability to achieve industry leading operating and financial performance and look forward to showcasing our leadership team at a future date.”

CSX also announced the Board has authorized $1.5B in share repurchases, which builds on the $1.5B program recently completed.

“The Board’s action to expand the repurchase program demonstrates our confidence in CSX’s long term future and ability to generate substantial free cash flow,” said Harrison.

Citi Comments

Citi analyst Christian #Wetherbee believes the “surprising” postponement of CSX’s investor day will likely prompt concerns about CEO Hunter Harrison’s health and “potential disarray in the management ranks” following the replacement of two C-level executives Wednesday.

The analyst, however, believes the company needs more time for new COO Jim Foote to get familiar with operations in order to participate in the presentation.

Wetherbee expects the shares to face downward pressure in the short term, but thinks little incremental has changed at the company. He keeps a Buy rating on CSX with a $58 price target.

CSX closed at $52.92.


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