GATX 3Q profit jumps on tank car orders

CHICAGO -- Railcar leasing company GATX Corp. said Thursday that its third-quarter earnings rose on a surge in orders for tank cars to haul oil, gas and chemicals.

The company earned $53.8 million, or $1.13 per share, compared with $32.9 million, or 70 cents per share, a year ago. Both quarters included gains from tax adjustments and other items worth a combined 41 cents per share. But stripping out those one-time items, GATX still topped Wall Street expectations. Analysts polled by FactSet expected a profit of 67 cents per share.

Revenue rose to $343.4 million from $337.9 million in the third quarter of 2011, but fell short of analysts' $348.1 million average expectation.

The rapid pace of tank car leases in the quarter is in part due to a surge in exploration for cheaper sources of oil in the U.S. Many parts of the country have seen production surge, but there's not always an underground pipeline to carry the haul. Railroads are getting that business.

Union Pacific Corp., the nation's largest railroad, said Thursday that chemicals shipments were also driving its business. Railroads haul the bulk of chemicals because many aren't permitted on U.S. highways.

GATX said demand for tank cars remains "solid" in Europe as well, although chemical demand is showing signs of weakening.

The company now expects its full-year earnings to be at the high end of its previous guidance range of $2.65 to $2.75 per diluted share. Analysts expect $2.02 per share.

Shares rose 46 cents in afternoon trading to $45.32.