Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp., which operates the nation's second-largest railroad, said Tuesday that its first-quarter earnings jumped 30 percent on more rail shipments of farm products and coal, as well as larger fuel surcharges.
The owner of the BNSF Railway Co. beat Wall Street expectations for profit and revenue.
The company earned $455 million, or $1.30 per share, in the January-March period compared with $349 million, or 96 cents per share, a year ago.
Revenue jumped 17 percent to $4.26 billion.
Analysts expected profits of $1.22 per share on revenue of $4.09 billion, according to a survey by Thomson Financial.
Company shares rose $1.60, or 1.6 percent, to close at $102.72 Tuesday after rising to a 52-week high of $105.74 earlier in the session.
The company predicted that second-quarter earnings would rise by a high-teens percentage over the same period last year, and full-year profit would approach $6 a share. Analysts were expecting $5.90 per share for 2008.
In the first quarter, agricultural product revenues rose 38 percent to $866 million as the railroad handled more carloads of wheat, soybeans, corn and ethanol. Coal revenue rose 26 percent.
Chairman and Chief Executive Matthew K. Rose said, however, that the company continued to see softness in shipments of consumer products and housing supplies.
BNSF and other railroads have been raising fuel surcharges to offset rising costs. More than 80 percent of BNSF customers paid a surcharge in the first quarter, and officials said they hoped to boost that to around 85 percent by year end.
Fuel costs rose 55 percent and topped $1 billion for the first time in any quarter, said Chief Financial Officer Tom Hund. Fuel edged labor as they company's largest expense, also a first.
John Kartsonas, an analyst with Citigroup, said Burlington Northern turned in an "impressive performance ... amidst recessionary conditions," and he nudged his estimates of future profits up 1 to 2 percent.
Fort Worth-based BNSF operates more than 32,000 miles of track in 28 states and two Canadian provinces.