Railroad company Kansas City Southern said quarterly profit doubled, beating forecasts, with carloadings and revenue at record highs, and said the U.S. and Mexican economies would grow moderately through 2012.
The fourth-largest publicly held U.S. railroad, which relies heavily on shipments to and from Mexico, said higher pricing and fuel surcharges more than offset increased costs in the third quarter.
The company also said it was benefiting from increased auto production in Mexico.
Chief Executive Officer David Starling told analysts in a conference call that nothing in KCS's current carload and nothing in the projections of our customers lead us to believe that the economy is falling into another recession.
He added, With the weather challenges behind us, we remain confident that our mid-single-digit volume and mid-teen revenue growth guidance for 2011 is attainable.
Adjusted shipping volume grew 7 percent in the third quarter and continues to expand. Two of the five highest weekly carload volumes in company history occurred in October, the railroad said.
Kansas City Southern said prices charged for shipments to the same customer this year and a year earlier -- a closely watched pricing gauge known as same store sales -- rose 6.1 percent in the third quarter and 5.7 percent for the year to date.
Auto-related shipment revenue jumped 58 percent, driving the overall revenue rise. The intermodal, industrial and consumer products segments all had revenue increases of more than 30 percent.
Mexico has become the North American manufacturing center for smaller, more fuel-efficient and lower-priced vehicles such as the Fiat 500, the Volkswagon Beetle and Jetta, and the Ford Fiesta, Starling said.
With Chinese wage rates approaching that of Mexico, with the high quality of work done in Mexico, and with significantly lower shipping costs, near-sourcing is not just a fad, it's reality, he added.
Among the railroad's holdings is Kansas City Southern de Mexico, a primary Mexican rail line connecting Mexico and the United States.
The company said it now controls facilities that enable it to ship to 60 percent of Mexico's population, covering about two-thirds of its gross domestic product.
Its pipeline of opportunities, especially tied to manufacturing growth in Mexico, enables it to project strong revenue growth despite an economy that is far from robust, said Kevin Kirkeby, S&P Capital IQ equity analyst.
The sheer number of projects in the works gives Kansas City Southern considerably more comfort than a lot of peers have about the revenue outlook in the next three to five years, he said.
Kansas City Southern's adjusted revenue increased 15 percent through the first nine months of the year, and its full-year growth should be comparable, the company said.
It reported third-quarter net income of $100 million, or 91 cents per share, up from $50 million, or 48 cents per share, a year ago.
Adjusted for hurricane-related impact and other one-time items, profit was 78 cents per share. On that basis, analysts on average forecast 74 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
The company, based in Kansas City, Missouri, said revenue increased 24 percent to a record $545 million. Analysts, on average, expected $540.5 million.
Adjusted for revenue lost last year due to Hurricane Alex, the revenue increase was 16 percent.
The company's shares were up 2.25 percent $58.62 in midday trade. The shares are up 21 percent this year, compared with a 6 percent drop in the Dow Jones Transportation average .
The two largest publicly held U.S. railroad companies, Union Pacific Corp and CSX Corp , reported higher quarterly earnings earlier this week, boosted by price hikes and fuel surcharges.