Posts Tagged ‘NS annual meeting’

NS CEO Shaw Pledges Service Improvements

May 16, 2022

Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw pledged during the company’s annual meeting to make the firm more customer-centric and operations driven.

Shaw had made similar comments during meetings with NS employees that he held during his first weeks on the job as CEO after replacing the now-retired James Squires.

“My first priority, and the top priority of every member of the Norfolk Southern team, is to restore service to the quality our customers expect and deserve,” Shaw said in a statement.

The statement said this means accelerating the railroads’s TOP|SPG operating plan, hiring the conductors needed to execute the plan and making it easier for customers to do business with NS.

During the meeting, NS shareholders elected Amy Miles to serve as independent chair of the board of directors for a one-year term to expire in 2023. She is former chair and CEO of Regal Entertainment Group.

Also elected to the board were Shaw and 12 others, including Thomas Bell Jr., chairman of Mesa Capital Partners; Mitchell Daniels Jr., president of Purdue University and former governor of Indiana; Marcela Donadio, former Ernst & Young partner and oil and gas sector leader; John Huffard Jr., co-founder of Tenable Network Security Inc. and Tenable Holdings Inc.; Christopher Jones, former corporate vice president and president of the technology services sector of Northrop Grumman Corp.; Thomas Kelleher, chairman of UBS and former president of Morgan Stanley; Steven Leer, former chairman and CEO of Arch Coal Inc.; Michael Lockhart, former chairman, president and CEO of Armstrong World Industries Inc.; Claude Mongeau, former president and CEO of CN; Jennifer Scanlon, president, CEO and director of UL Inc.; Squires; and John Thompson, former SVP and general manager of BestBuy.com LLC.

NS Vows to Pursue Sustainability

May 15, 2021

Norfolk Southern may favor black locomotives, but its top executives were seeing green during their remarks at the annual meeting held last Thursday.

CEO James Squires focused on the carrier’s “digital transformation” and sustainability initiatives during his speech.

“Having made significant progress in our company’s transformation, technology remains at the center of our strategy,” Squires said.

“We are moving quickly to lead the industry in innovation, launching our Digital | NS initiative, and building the digital railroad of the future.

Squires said the company’s goals, both short term and long term, reflect a pursuit of operational excellence as well as a deep commitment to sustainability as core to its business.

“We are excited to move forward with our transition to diesel-electric hybrid cranes at our intermodal facilities, advance plans to further reduce fuel consumption, and develop our science-based target to reduce emissions consistent with the Paris Agreement on climate change,” Squires said.

“By combining these measures with innovative initiatives such as our industry-first issuance of green bonds, we’re partnering with our customers and investors to reduce our respective carbon footprints and business costs while pursuing responsible growth.” 

A shareholder proposal requesting that NS management report on how its lobbying activity aligns with the Paris Agreement on climate change received support from a majority of the shares voted at the annual meeting.

“Our board of directors will determine appropriate next steps, but it’s important to note that sustainability and political transparency are already areas of strength for our company,” said Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer Vanessa Allen Sutherland.

“We have committed to set a science-based target for emissions reductions consistent with the Paris Agreement, and recently issued $500 million in green bonds to fund investments in sustainable business practices. We also have been consistently recognized as a leader in corporate political transparency by such organizations as the Center for Political Accountability.”

Squires also said NS is well positioned to offer superior service and enjoy financial gains as the economy improves.

“We’re now accelerating our implementation of precision scheduled railroading principles to drive the productivity and efficiency of our organization even further, helping us better serve customers, support growth and drive long-term value,” Squires said.

NS shareholders elected 13 directors for one-year terms expiring in 2022.

They include Thomas D. Bell Jr., chairman of Mesa Capital Partners; Mitchell E. Daniels Jr., president of Purdue University; Marcela E. Donadio, former partner and Americas oil and gas sector leader of Ernst & Young; John C. Huffard Jr., co-founder of Tenable Network Security and Tenable Holdings; Christopher T. Jones, former corporate vice president and president of the technology services sector of Northrop Grumman Corporation; Thomas C. Kelleher, former president of Morgan Stanle; Steven F. Leer, lead director, former CEO and chairman of Arch Coal; Michael D. Lockhart, former chairman, president and CEO of Armstrong World Industries; Amy E. Miles, former chair and CEO of Regal Entertainment Group; Claude Mongeau, former president and CEO of Canadian National; Jennifer F. Scanlon, president, CEO and director of UL; Squires; and John R. Thompson, former senior vice president and general manager of Best Buy.com.

NS CEO Optimistic About Company Future

May 19, 2020

Norfolk Southern CEO James Squires expressed optimism during the company’s annual meeting that the railroad will emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic that has sapped freight traffic on the nation’s railroads as a stronger company.

“We’ll continue to manage our assets well and control our costs,” he said. “Our emphasis on superior service will continue to drive our long-term growth strategy.”

The meeting was held online due to the pandemic.

Squires said the pandemic has forced NS to be innovative and collaborative, undertaking such measures as equipping departments to work remotely, including most of customer service, and purchasing hand sanitizer from local distilleries in the midst of a nationwide shortage.

Last year NS implemented its version of precision scheduled railroading, which it named the TOP21 operating plan, and Squires said it has changed as NS operates trains.

“As a result of our transformation, we’ve set records for metrics such as train speed, terminal dwell and shipment constituency,” Squires said.

Squires cited the fact that NS has reduced its locomotive fleet by 703 locomotives as evidence that the plan is working and the NS network was become efficient, reaching an adjusted operating ratio of 63.7 percent in the first quarter this year.

NS is seeking to get it operating ratio to 60 percent in 2021.

During his address, Squires said that although traffic fell 11 percent in the first quarter the overall financial standing of NS is good.

“With access to ample liquidity and the lowest levels of capital expenditures since 2010 . . . operational efficiencies and industry-leading personnel, the company is positioned for future growth opportunities that will create long-term shareholder value,.” Squires said.

NS CEO Squires Gives Upbeat View at Annual Meeting

May 12, 2018

Norfolk Southern CEO James A. Squires gave an upbeat assessment of the railroad’s business prospects this week during the company’s annual meeting in Norfolk, saying it is achieving key financial targets, improving operating efficiencies, and advancing sustainable growth.

“Our business is about movement, and I can tell you that we are moving forward,” Squires said. “The Norfolk Southern team’s continued success in executing our plan is driving long-term value, and that’s a good story for our shareholders.”

Among the achievements that Squires cited were a record best earnings per share and operating ratio last year and productivity savings of $150 million.

Squires said this progress came despite hurricanes and winter storms that disrupted rail operations.

He also singled out use of digital and remote-sensing technologies to enhance operating efficiencies and customer service, which will give NS a competitive edge.

“With them, we are helping customers better manage supply chains in this demanding era of e-commerce, and we are improving the way we monitor and manage things, from locomotive performance to rail wear,” Squires said.

Squires said operating and financial results in 2018 have been strong thus far with year-over-year growth in shipment volumes and revenue, and first quarter records in net income, earnings per share, and operating ratio.

“Favorable economic conditions and market trends point to continued business growth this year and Norfolk Southern is in an excellent position to grow, Squires said.

During the meeting, NS shareholders re-elected 12 directors, including Squires, for terms expiring in 2019.

They include Thomas D. Bell Jr., chairman of Mesa Capital Partners LLC; Wesley G. Bush, chairman and chief executive of Northrop Grumman Corporation; Daniel A. Carp, former chairman and chief executive of Eastman Kodak Company; Mitchell E. Daniels Jr., president of Purdue University; Marcela E. Donadio, former partner and Americas Oil & Gas Sector Leader of Ernst & Young LLP; Steven F. Leer, former chief executive and chairman of Arch Coal Inc.; Michael D. Lockhart, former chairman, president, and chief executive of Armstrong World Industries; Amy E. Miles, former chair and chief executive of Regal Entertainment Group; Martin H. Nesbitt, co-founder of The Vistria Group; Jennifer F. Scanlon, president and chief executive of USG Corporation; and John R. Thompson, former senior vice president and general manager of BestBuy.com LLC.

Saving Pennies to Bolster an Exective Image

April 10, 2016

Cancellation of the steam program, putting a posh executive resort up for sale and now not sending the executive train to the Masters golf tournament in Georgia.

None of those actions that have been undertaken by Norfolk Southern will do anything to improve the company’s bottom line, but they will have symbolic value in the months ahead as the NS board of directors continues to fight an unwanted takeover bid by Canadian Pacific.

Trains magazine reported last week that NS didn’t send its executive train to the golf tournament in Augusta, Georgia.

It remains to be seen, but chances are the executive train won’t be going to the Kentucky Derby either.

On TransportationIn both instances, NS has historically sent its executive train to both high-profile sporting events to entertain shippers, public officials and executives of other railroads.

Just as predictable as flowering trees in the spring, the NS executive train has departed Altoona, Pennsylvania, in the morning and passed through Northeast Ohio on the Fort Wayne Line about a week before the Derby, which is held on the first Saturday in May.

But when you are trying to cut costs, executive perks can become expendable. It is all about promoting an image.

“We do not have business cars at the Masters,” NS spokesman Rick Harris told Trains. “It was an internal business decision.”

CSX and BNSF do have their executive trains in Augusta, but they are not currently the target of a takeover bid by CP or someone else.

Norfolk Southern is not cutting expenses because it is unprofitable.

NS may be suffering from lost coal traffic, but it is not losing money. It is far from being Penn Central or Erie Lackawanna, two railroads that served the Eastern United States that lost a gondola load of money, seeking bankruptcy protection as a result.

No, the issue is a matter of how much money NS makes and whether it is doing enough to make more of it.

In that regard, the primary concern of NS executives is not just prevailing over CP as it is pleasing Wall Street analysts who can influence the buying and selling of NS stock.

That is not to say that the CP takeover bid in unrelated to what Wall Street analysts think.

When a company is unable to increase its financial performance with substantial new business, it often tries to make itself look good by cost cutting.

There is a saying that you can’t cut your way to growth, but you can make your financial statement look better in the short term, which is mostly what Wall Street cares about.

Hence, NS has announced a five-year strategic plan to achieve $650 million in annual savings and reduce its operating ratio to 65 percent or lower by 2020.

The plan also talks about finding new business. The strategic plan is filled with long-term goals and objectives, but it was created for short-term benefit.

Whether the five-year plan ever achieves its objectives is largely immaterial at this point. It shows that current management is doing something now to bolster the balance sheet.

In the short term, NS management is most concerned about the May 12 annual meeting at which interests representing CP will propose a resolution directing NS to discuss a merger with CP.

NS CEO James Squires will point to a laundry list of actions his company has undertaken to reduce costs as a way of arguing against the resolution and against the need to merge with another company.

Not operating the executive train to a golf tournament will save only a few pennies in the scheme of things, but keeping the executive horses in Altoona will be worth valuable debating points.

The last thing Squires needs is a dissident shareholder harping about how NS is spending money on “frills.”

Squires needs to create the impression that he and the current NS management are doing all they can to turn things around and that they know what they are doing.

It is all about building an image that instills confidence in the current management among stockholders.

That might be enough to persuade enough of them to vote down the CP-sponsored resolution.

Saving pennies is the sort of thing that you do when you are in a tough situation that has no easy or immediate solution. You play for time and hope to ride out the storm.

It must gall Squires and the NS directors that CP’s E. Hunter Harrison has all but called them incompetent by saying that if Harrison were the CEO of NS he could realize $1.2 billion in savings by implementing his precision railroading operating plan.

In time, NS will either chase Harrison away or succumb to him. In either case, it seems likely that the NS executive train will be back at the Masters in 2017.

If NS triumphs over CP, it will be able to return to a sense of normalcy, which means wooing shippers, politicians and other railroad executives by taking them for a train ride.

If Hunter gets what he wants, he, too, will need to reach out to the same constituencies.

And what’s spending a few pennies to do that? It won’t affect the bottom line but could go a long way toward helping build a badly-needed positive image.

NS Sets Annual Meeting for May 12

March 30, 2016

Norfolk Southern has set May 12 as the date for its annual meeting during which Canadian Pacific interests are expected to ask NS stockholders to vote on a resolution mandating merger discussions with CP.

NS logo 1The resolution would direct NS management to meet with CP management to discuss a merger. NS management is opposing the resolution.

In a letter sent to NS employees, CEO James Squires said he will discuss during the meeting the progress the company has made in its five-year strategic plan to streamline operations and increase profit.

Squires said NS stockholders might receive proxy materials from CP pertaining to the resolution it has proposed to direct NS to talk merger with CP.