CN Rail boosts dividend after Q4 profits rise 11 per cent to $941M

MONTREAL -- Canadian National Railway has boosted its dividend by 20 per cent after capping a challenging year by growing profits 11 per cent to $941 in the fourth quarter.

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The country's largest railway said it earned $1.18 per share for the three months ended Dec. 31.

That compares with $1.03 per share or $844 million a year earlier. Revenues decreased one per cent to $3.17 billion.

Analysts had expected the railway to earned $885.4 million or $1.11 per share in the quarter.

Carloadings declined eight per cent while revenue ton-miles declined five per cent because of a weakened Canadian economy.

CN Rail's operating ratio, which measures operating expenses as a percentage of revenue, improved 3.5 points to 57.2 per cent for the year.

For the full year, CN Rail (TSX:CNR) earned $3.54 billion or $4.44 per share on $12.6 billion of revenues.

Chief executive Claude Mongeau said the railway generated strong results despite weaker volumes.

"Our solid performance is testament to the strength of CN's franchise and diversified portfolio of businesses," he said in a new release.

Mongeau has returned from a five-month medical leave to treat a pre-cancerous tumour in his larynx.

Despite the ongoing challenges from a weak Canadian economy, CN expects to grow its adjusted profits by about five per cent above the $4.44 per share earned in 2015.

A quarterly dividend of 37.5 cents per share, up from 31 cents, will be paid March 31 to shareholders as of March 10. Since going public in 1995, the railway has declared 20 consecutive dividend increases, averaging 17 per cent per year.


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