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CSX 'Welcoming' Work With Activist Hedge Funds: CEO

Thursday, 21 Aug 2008 | 3:15 PM ET

Cramer got a chance Thursday to check in briefly with CSX Chairman and CEO Michael Ward.

Ward’s been a regular guest on Mad Money as his company has battled with activist hedge funds fighting to have him ousted. (Read: “CSX CEO Tells Latest on Proxy Battle.”)

Those hedge funds have managed to get two people on CSX’s board of directors, and another two are pending approval based on a lawsuit that proceeds to oral hearings this coming Monday, Aug. 25 in the Second Court of Appeals in New York.

CSX CEO on Energy Biz
Insight on CSX's business, the board room and the energy business, with Michael Ward, CSX president, chairman & CEO and Mad Money host Jim Cramer.

“Maybe they can actually help,” Cramer said of the board additions.

“That’s what we hope, too,” Ward said, recognizing the significant investment these funds have in CSX. “We’re welcoming and hoping they have some really good ideas to help us do even better.”

Ward also explained the two-month lag on his company’s fuel surcharge. It's used to give customers a chance to adjust to the changing price of oil. For other companies with similar initiatives, the surcharge has been able to boost profits as the price of oil comes down. But CSX operates with what Ward called a “negative lag.” As the price of oil goes up, it’s still only collecting fees on an earlier price. But as oil comes down, CSX makes up the difference by still charging at a higher locked-in rate.

Ward shrugged off analyst concern about the stronger dollar and a possible slowdown in China. The export coal market isn’t dependent on the U.S. currency so much as the continued opening of coal fire plants in China. And that hasn’t slowed a bit.

“From what we’re seeing,” Ward said, “things are still pretty vibrant.”





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