Canadian National Railway (TSX: CNR) reported earnings on Jan. 24. Here are the numbers you need to know.

The 10-second takeaway
For the quarter ended Dec. 31 (Q4), Canadian National Railway beat expectations on revenues and beat expectations on earnings per share.

Compared to the prior-year quarter, revenue grew, and earnings per share expanded significantly.

Gross margins dropped, operating margins contracted, net margins grew.

Revenue details
Canadian National Railway booked revenue of $2.3 billion. The 17 analysts polled by S&P Capital IQ looked for sales of $2.3 billion. Sales were 9.9% higher than the prior-year quarter's $2.1 billion.

Source: S&P Capital IQ. Quarterly periods. Dollar amounts in millions.

EPS details
Non-GAAP EPS came in at $1.28. The 13 earnings estimates compiled by S&P Capital IQ averaged $1.22 per share on the same basis. GAAP EPS of $1.30 for Q4 were 19% higher than the prior-year quarter's $1.10 per share.

Source: S&P Capital IQ. Quarterly periods. Figures may be non-GAAP to maintain comparability with estimates.

Margin details
For the quarter, gross margin was 47.4%, 260 basis points worse than the prior-year quarter. Operating margin was 35.3%, 130 basis points worse than the prior-year quarter. Net margin was 24.9%, 110 basis points better than the prior-year quarter.

Looking ahead
Next quarter's average estimate for revenue is $2.3 billion. On the bottom line, the average EPS estimate is $1.03.

Next year's average estimate for revenue is $9.5 billion. The average EPS estimate is $5.35.

Investor Sentiment

Of Wall Street recommendations tracked by S&P Capital IQ, the average opinion on Canadian National Railway is hold, with an average price target of $79.87.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.