Burlington Northern unsure if expansion will include Clovis

Staff and Wire Reports

FORT WORTH, Texas — Officials with Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. said profit rose nearly 25 percent in the April-June period on record shipments and higher prices, and they will hire 2,300 new employees this year to handle anticipated growth.

Burlington Northern officials have not decided where those employees will work or if there will be any new openings at the Clovis branch, Burlington Northern spokesperson Lena Kent said.

In December, Burlington Northern received a contract from the state Job Training Incentive Program Board for $350,000 to provide 35 new jobs at its Clovis facility.

“Clovis is very important and that’s why we spent the money in expanding that facility this last year,” Kent said.

The company said it earned $249 million in the quarter, or 67 cents per share, compared with $200 million, or 54 cents per share, a year earlier. Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call had forecast 64 cents per share.

Revenue rose to $2.69 billion from $2.29 billion a year earlier, topping analysts’ forecast of $2.61 billion in sales.

Chairman and chief executive Matthew K. Rose said the company was helped by record volumes and a 2 percent increase in average rates charged to shippers.

Operating costs, however, jumped 16 percent, to $2.18 billion, partly because of higher fuel prices.

Demand continued to be strong and the company said it would hire more workers than previously planned.

BNSF had previously announced it would hire 1,800 people because of increased volume, and most of those have been hired. On Tuesday, executives said another 500 jobs would be added.

“We’re hiring about 500 people in fourth quarter, mostly new employees as conductors and engineers in order to be prepared for the early part of 2005,” said Richard Russack, a company spokesman.

“We anticipate these kinds of volumes to be very strong,” Russack said. The new employees will be distributed throughout the company’s 28-state network, Russack said.

For the first six months of the year, the company earned $442 million, or $1.18 per share, compared to $387 million, or $1.04 per share, a year ago. Revenue increased to $5.18 billion from $4.53 billion.

The company’s Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Co. subsidiary operates 32,500 miles of track in the United States and Canada.

Shares of Fort Worth-based Burlington Northern fell 19 cents to close at $34.49 Tuesday on the New York Stock Exchange. They hit a 52-week high of $35.49 earlier this month.

Kent said Burlington Northern has railways in 28 states and two provinces in Canada. She said about 1,500 employees work for Burlington Northern in New Mexico.

With headquarters in Belen, Burlington Northern has railways in Albuquerque, Carlsbad, Raton and Gallup, in addition to Clovis.