UPDATE 1-Canadian National sees high single-digit 2021 EPS growth, beats profit

(Adds details from the release)

Jan 26 (Reuters) - Canadian National Railway Co said on Tuesday it aims to deliver high single-digit earnings per share growth in fiscal 2021 and beat quarterly profit as improvement in consumer spending drove volumes.

COVID-19 mandated lockdowns impacted railroad volumes in the first half of 2020 due to low demand for consumer products and industrial goods. However, intermodal and grain shipment picked pace in the third quarter which, along with the return of consumer spending, boosted volumes in the later half of the year.

The company’s operating ratio, a closely watched measure of operating expenses as a percentage of revenue, fell to 61.4% from 66%. A higher ratio represents inefficiency.

On an adjusted basis, Canadian National earned C$1.43 per share, topping analysts’ average estimate of C$1.41, according to Refinitiv data

Revenue rose to C$3.66 billion from C$3.58 billion, a year earlier.

Analysts on average expect earnings of C$6.29 per share for full-year 2021, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Net income at the largest railroad operator in Canada rose to C$1.02 billion ($803.53 million), or C$1.43 per share, in the quarter ended Dec. 31, from C$873 million, or C$1.22 per share, a year earlier. ($1 = 1.2694 Canadian dollars) (Reporting by Shreyasee Raj in Bengaluru; Editing by Aditya Soni and Vinay Dwivedi)