Having already looked at the likes of Canadian National
Like other major rails, Canadian Pacific saw a strong rate environment in the fourth quarter. While total carloads shipped and revenue ton-miles both increased just 1.2%, total freight revenue was up nearly 15%. Revenue growth was strongest in coal, industrial/consumer products, and intermodal, while fertilizers and forest products were weakest.
Despite considerably higher fuel costs (up 35%), the company managed to operate its railroads more efficiently. The operating ratio dropped from 77.2% to 74.1% (before some non-operating items) and that makes it the third-best for the quarter, just behind Norfolk Southern. Although Canadian Pacific saw some modest improvements in dwell times, average train speeds were down, which prevented the company from using its assets as efficiently as investors would've liked.
By and large, the story for Canadian Pacific is the same as for the other rails -- the companies are enjoying good shipping rates, are generally passing fuel costs on to customers, and are seeing some free cash flow leverage. In particular, Canadian Pacific may have more free cash flow growth than the group as a whole, due mostly to starting from a lower base.
I'm not dismissing the possibility that Canadian Pacific can do better, but I do believe that the stock price already reflects those assumptions. Consequently, I don't anticipate hitching any part of my portfolio to this train in the near future.
Ride the rails with more Foolishness:
Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).