Earnings Analysis: Norfolk Southern Corp. (NYSE: NSC)

Earnings Analysis: Norfolk Southern Corp. (NYSE: NSC)Norfolk Southern Corp. (NYSE:NSC) recently reported its preliminary financial results based on which we provide a unique peer-based analysis of the company. Our analysis is based on the company’s performance over the last twelve months (unless stated otherwise). For a more detailed analysis of this company (and over 40,000 other global equities) please visit www.capitalcube.com.

Norfolk Southern Corp.’s analysis versus peers uses the following peer-set: Union Pacific Corporation (NYSE:UNP), Canadian National Railway (NYSE:CNI), CSX Corporation (NYSE:CSX), Canadian Pacific Railway Limited (NYSE:CP), Daqin Railway Co., Ltd. (SHA:601006), QR National (ASX:QRN), Kansas City Southern (NYSE:KSU), Tobu Railway Co Ltd (TYO:9001), Genesee & Wyoming Inc. (NYSE:GWR) and Globaltrans Investment PLC (LON:GLTR). The table below shows the preliminary results along with the recent trend for revenues, net income and returns.

Quarterly (USD million) 2012-09-30 2012-06-30 2012-03-31 2011-12-31 2011-09-30
Revenues 2,693.0 2,874.0 2,789.0 2,797.0 2,889.0
Revenue Growth % (6.3) 3.0 (0.3) (3.2) 0.8
Net Income 402.0 524.0 410.0 477.0 554.0
Net Income Growth % (23.3) 27.8 (14.0) (13.9) (0.5)
Net Margin % 14.9 18.2 14.7 17.1 19.2
ROE % (Annualized) 16.5 21.4 16.5 18.9 21.2
ROA % (Annualized) 5.4 7.2 5.6 6.6 7.8

Valuation Drivers

Norfolk Southern Corp.’s current Price/Book of 2.2 is about median in its peer group. The market expects less growth from NSC-US than the median of its chosen peers (PE of 11.9 compared to peer median of 15.4) and for its current rates of return that are around peer median (ROE of 18.1%) to decline.

The company’s asset efficiency (asset turns of 0.4x) and net profit margins of 16.3% are both median for its peer group. NSC-US’s net margin has declined 0.8 percentage points from last year’s high but remains above its five-year average net margin of 15.4.

Economic Moat

The company enjoys both better than peer median annual revenue growth of 17.4% and better than peer median earnings growth performance 28.2%. NSC-US currently converts every 1% of change in annual revenue into 1.6% of change in annual reported earnings. We view this company as a leader among its peers.

NSC-US’s return on assets currently is around peer median (6.2% vs. peer median 6.2%) — similar to its returns over the past five years (5.5% vs. peer median 5.4%). This performance suggests that the company has no specific competitive advantages relative to its peers.

The company’s gross margin of 38.9% is around peer median suggesting that NSC-US’s operations do not benefit from any differentiating pricing advantage. In addition, NSC-US’s pre-tax margin of 25.4% is also around the peer median suggesting no operating cost advantage relative to peers.

Growth & Investment Strategy

NSC-US’s revenues have grown more slowly than the peer median over the last few years (1.6% vs. 4.5% respectively for the past three years) and the stock price’s relatively low PE ratio of 11.9 implies relatively low future growth as well. Overall, we view the company’s growth expectations as substandard relative to its peers.

NSC-US’s annualized rate of change in capital of 2.4% over the past three years is less than its peer median of 4.2%. This investment has generated a peer median return on capital of 8.5% averaged over the same three years. The median return on capital investment on a relatively lower investment suggests that the company is under investing.

Earnings Quality

NSC-US’s net income margin for the last twelve months is around the peer median (16.3% vs. peer median of 15.9%). This average margin combined with a level of accruals that is around peer median (10.1% vs. peer median of 10.1%) suggests there possibly isn’t too much accrual movement flowing into the company’s reported earnings.

NSC-US’s accruals over the last twelve months are positive suggesting a buildup of reserves. However, this level of accruals is also around the peer median and suggests the company is recording a proper level of reserves compared to its peers.

Trend Charts

Graph of Revenues Trend for Norfolk Southern Corp. (NYSE:NSC)
Graph of Revenues Trend for Norfolk Southern Corp. (NYSE:NSC)
Graph of Net Margin Trend for Norfolk Southern Corp. (NYSE:NSC)
Graph of Net Margin Trend for Norfolk Southern Corp. (NYSE:NSC)
Graph of Accruals Trend (% revenues, Quarterly) for Norfolk Southern Corp. (NYSE:NSC)
Graph of Accruals Trend (% revenues, Annual or TTM) for Norfolk Southern Corp. (NYSE:NSC)

Company Profile

Norfolk Southern Corp. transports coal and industrial products. It operates an intermodal network through its subsidiary, Norfolk Southern Railway Co., which operates as a container port in the Eastern United States and provides connections to other rail carriers. The company is also engaged in the rail transportation business, which controls a major freight railroad. Norfolk Southern also transports overseas freight through several Atlantic and Gulf Coast ports. The company was founded on July 23, 1980 and is headquartered in Norfolk, VA.

Disclaimer

The information presented in this report has been obtained from sources deemed to be reliable, but AnalytixInsight does not make any representation about the accuracy, completeness, or timeliness of this information. This report was produced by AnalytixInsight for informational purposes only and nothing contained herein should be construed as an offer to buy or sell or as a solicitation of an offer to buy or sell any security or derivative instrument. This report is current only as of the date that it was published and the opinions, estimates, ratings and other information may change without notice or publication. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Prior to making an investment or other financial decision, please consult with your financial, legal and tax advisors. AnalytixInsight shall not be liable for any party’s use of this report. AnalytixInsight is not a broker-dealer and does not buy, sell, maintain a position, or make a market in any security referred to herein. One of the principal tenets for us at AnalytixInsight is that the best person to handle your finances is you. By your use of our services or by reading any our reports, you’re agreeing that you bear responsibility for your own investment research and investment decisions. You also agree that AnalytixInsight, its directors, its employees, and its agents will not be liable for any investment decision made or action taken by you and others based on news, information, opinion, or any other material generated by us and/or published through our services. For a complete copy of our disclaimer, please visit our website www.analytixinsight.com.
This article was originally written by abha.dawesar, and posted on CapitalCube.
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