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SYDNEY, Nov 21 AAP

November 21 2012, 11:14AM

Freight rail company QR National expects to haul just enough coal this financial year to meet its previous forecasts.

Chief executive Lance Hockridge on Wednesday said haulage volumes in the first four months of the 2012/13 financial year were down one per cent from the same period in the previous year.

The fall was due to lower volumes in Queensland, as those in NSW were higher than in the previous corresponding period, he said.

"We expect the softer demand environment to continue over the near term," he told QR National's annual general meeting in Brisbane.

"With variable railings over the first four months and the wet season approaching, it is difficult to provide certainty on full-year coal haulage volumes to June 30, 2013.

"Our best estimate, advised in August, in the range of 195 to 205 million tonnes has not changed. However, experience to date suggests it is likely to be towards the lower end of that range."

QR National expected negotiations for several new contracts and contract renewals to be completed before the end of the financial year, he said.

"Despite short-term headwinds, the fundamental drivers of Asian demand remain unchanged," Mr Hockridge said.

The response to the company's voluntary redundancy program had been stronger than expected, he added, with more than 820 people leaving, rather than the previously advised 750.

That takes the total number of departed staff since the company was privatised in 2010 to about 1,600, Mr Hockridge said.