CSX Corporation (NYSE: CSX) is scheduled to report its Q4 2021 results on Thursday, January 20. We expect CSX to post revenue and earnings slightly below the consensus estimates. That said, overall revenue will likely see y-o-y growth in mid teens, led by an expected increase in coal transportation as well as a rebound in merchandise freight. However, the margins in Q4 may face some pressure due to inflationary headwinds and rising labor costs. Not only do we believe CSX will post Q4 results slightly below the street expectation, we find CSX stock to be fully valued at the current levels of $36, with limited room for growth. Our interactive dashboard analysis on CSX Corporation’s Pre-Earnings has additional details.
(1) Revenues expected to be slightly below the consensus estimates
Trefis estimates CSX’s Q4 2021 revenues to be around $3.25 billion, slightly below the $3.32 billion consensus estimate. CSX will likely see higher freight revenues from all of its segments – Coal, Intermodal, and Merchandise, driven by economic growth. The company’s 24% revenue growth in Q3 was driven by a 39% jump in coal freight, 14% growth in intermodal, and 7% rise for merchandise freight. The company’s largest segment – merchandise freight – likely saw strong growth in Q4 given the economic growth. However, a drop in natural gas prices in Q4 due to rising output and the spread of Omicron may impact the overall sales growth in Q4 and Q1. Our dashboard on CSX Corporation’s Revenues offers more details on the company’s segments.
(2) EPS also likely to be marginally below the consensus estimates
CSX’s Q4 2021 earnings per share (EPS) is expected to be $0.40 per Trefis analysis, just one cent below the consensus estimate of $0.41. CSX’s net income of $968 million in Q3 2021 reflected a 31.5% growth from its $736 million figure in the prior-year quarter. This can be attributed to higher revenues and a 50 bps drop in operating ratio to 56.4%. Looking forward, inflationary pressure and rising wages likely impacted the company’s margins in Q4. The impact may be minimal if the company successfully passes on the increased costs to the customers during the contract renewals in Q4 and Q1. That said, for the full-year 2022, we expect the EPS to be higher at $1.76, compared to $1.20 in 2020 and an expected EPS of $1.53 in 2021.
(3) Stock price estimate in-line with the current market price
We estimate CSX’s Valuation to be around $37 per share which is in-line with the current market price. This represents a P/EBITDA multiple of under 14 for the company based on our forecast for CSX EBITDA for the current fiscal year. Overall, CSX stock appears to be appropriately priced at its current levels and investors may be better off waiting for a dip to buy the stock for higher gains, in our view.
While CSX stock appears to be appropriately priced, the Covid-19 crisis has created many pricing discontinuities which can offer attractive trading opportunities. For example, you’ll be surprised how counter-intuitive the stock valuation is for Heartland Express vs. Altice USA.
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|S&P 500 Return||-2%||-2%||108%|
|Trefis MS Portfolio Return||-7%||-7%||264%|
 Month-to-date and year-to-date as of 1/18/2022
 Cumulative total returns since the end of 2016