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Canadian National Railway Company
Symbol CNR
Shares Issued 708,987,899
Close 2021-09-16 C$ 146.85
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CN Rail details operational financial plan

2021-09-17 09:10 ET - News Release

Mr. J.J. Ruest reports

CN OUTLINES DETAILS OF STRATEGIC PLAN

Canadian National Railway Company has released the details of its strategic and financial value creation plan "Full Speed Ahead -- Redefining Railroading," which will allow CN to continue delivering high-quality service to customers while generating profitable growth and enhanced returns to shareholders. The plan announced today builds upon CN's January, 2021, strategic plan to lead on safety, customer value, operational excellence, sustainability and social inclusion, while also delivering industry-leading shareholder returns.

"CN's ambition is to build the premier railway of the 21st century by methodically investing in technologies to deliver high-quality service to customers, improve safety and sustainability, create capacity, and reduce costs and delays. Just as CN pioneered the industry's focus on efficiency to increase reliability, we are now well positioned to lead the industry through its next transformation by investing in the success of our customers, work force and communities while delivering enhanced financial results," stated J.J. Ruest, president and chief executive officer of CN.

"We spent the last several years making strategic and important customer-centric investments in our network, technology, sustainability and people. These investments have allowed us to deliver high-quality service to our customers and position us well to drive more sustainable returns to shareholders over the long term. I am confident that CN's senior management, a team of world-class railroaders who are focused on redefining the rail industry, have the skills and determination to lead the company into this exciting next phase," said Robert Pace, chair of the board of directors of CN.

CN's vision for the future

CN is a unique franchise with 19,500 miles of railway network connecting Canada's eastern and western coasts with the U.S. South. As the only railway with this three-coast access, CN has the best rail network in North America to drive long-term, sustainable, profitable growth.

CN has outlined a plan that is both ambitious and achievable. The company's focus will be on redefining railroading, driving profitable growth and making structural improvements for the next generation. CN has conducted an extensive review of all revenue and cost levers, and has targeted $700-million of operating income improvements to drive future growth. To achieve these improvements in 2022, CN intends to use a balanced approach that includes a strategic review of non-rail businesses and an optimization of labour productivity.

For 2022, CN expects to grow operating income and earnings per share (EPS) by approximately 20 per cent and improve its operating ratio to 57 per cent. Additionally, CN is reviewing its capital structure and financial leverage with a view to increasing total shareholder distributions.

CN is committed to operational excellence and delivering value for its shareholders by:

  • Resuming share repurchases: CN will recommence share repurchases under the plan previously approved by CN's board of directors in January, 2021, and expects to complete the remaining $1.1-billion of share repurchases by the end of January, 2022.
  • Increasing shareholder returns: CN is reviewing capital structure and financial leverage with a view to increase total shareholder distributions, including share repurchases in the range of $5-billion for 2022.
  • Reducing capital expenditures: CN expects to reduce capital expenditures to 17 per cent of revenue in 2022 as a result of the current good condition of its network, and the company's continued absolute commitment to safety and customer service. CN expects to maintain capital expenditures at 17 per cent of revenue for 2023 and 2024 unless there are significant market shifts.
  • Producing compelling financial returns: CN is committed to driving top-quartile total shareholder return (TSR), leading the industry in organic revenue growth driven by CN's intermodal business and showing continuous improvement on its operating margin.
  • Lowering its operating ratio: CN is targeting an operating ratio of 57 per cent for 2022 by:
    • Prioritizing rail operations, including car velocity, train speed and train length, and committing to pursuing strategic alternatives for adjacent non-rail businesses that are not best in class;
    • Rationalizing its cost structure by streamlining management, especially support functions, to improve labour productivity by accelerating speed and quality of decision-making.

CN believes an operating ratio of 57 per cent is optimal for a world in which customers and regulators are putting a greater emphasis than ever on expanding customer choice, service and reliability.

As part of its strategic and financial plan, CN is reaffirming its 2021 financial outlook targets of double-digit adjusted diluted EPS growth versus 2020 adjusted diluted EPS of $5.31, capital investments of approximately $3-billion and free cash flow in the range of $3-billion to $3.3-billion.

Focused on leading the industry with ESG (environmental, social and governance) commitments

CN has a high-quality, experienced management team with a proven record of executing on a forward-looking strategy as part of a sustainable future. CN continues to be the industry leader in fuel and carbon efficiency, with an uncompromising commitment to safety while also enhancing its top-tier corporate governance profile. Key progress made on the company's plan to deliver responsibly includes:

  • Setting a science-based target of a 43-per-cent carbon emission intensity reduction by 2030 based on 2019 levels;
  • Becoming the North American rail industry leader in fuel efficiency, consuming approximately 15 per cent less locomotive fuel per gross ton mile;
  • Introducing an annual advisory vote on CN's climate change action plan;
  • Aligning executive compensation with ESG objectives, including safety and fuel efficiency;
  • Reducing the mandatory retirement age and confirmed term limits for the board of directors;
  • Adding two new directors in 2021, along with a March, 2021, announcement that the board chair will not be seeking re-election when his term expires in 2022;
  • Setting a target of at least 50 per cent of non-management directors coming from diverse groups, including gender parity, by the end of 2022.

Commitment to enhancing competition

Despite the recently terminated transaction, CN's bid for Kansas City Southern reaffirmed CN as the premier North American railway and secured CN an incremental $700-million (U.S.) in breakup fees.

CN will continue to engage with market participants, railways and shippers to ensure that all regulatory rules are enforced fairly, and customers do not suffer anti-competitive effects arising from a combination between Canadian Pacific and KCS.

Conference call and additional information

CN will host a conference call today at 8 a.m. Eastern Time to discuss its strategic and financial value creation plan. Mr. Ruest, CN president and chief executive officer, will lead the call.

Parties wishing to participate via telephone may dial 1-866-324-3683 (Canada/United States), or 1-509-844-0959 (international) using 4682157 as the pass code. Participants are advised to dial in 10 minutes prior to the call.

CN will webcast the presentation live and furnish slides supporting the remarks via the investors section of its website. A webcast replay will be available after the call ends.

About Canadian National Railway Company

CN is a world-class transportation leader and trade-enabler. Essential to the economy, to the customers and to the communities it serves, CN safely transports more than 300 million tons of natural resources, manufactured products and finished goods throughout North America every year. As the only railway connecting Canada's eastern and western coasts with the U.S. South through a 19,500-mile rail network, CN and its affiliates have been contributing to community prosperity and sustainable trade since 1919. CN is committed to programs supporting social responsibility and environmental stewardship.

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