AUSTRALIAN rail operator Aurizon reported mixed financial results, with its total underlying EBITDA down 3% on the previous year to $1.428 billion. Meanwhile, the company’s revenue increased by 14% to $3.5 billion.

In his commentary on the results, Aurizon managing director and CEO Andrew Harding said over the year the company made several key investments that are to support national expansion and diversification.

“With operations now extending to South Australia and the Northern Territory, Aurizon has a truly national footprint which we can leverage to grow the Bulk and Containerised Freight businesses,” he said.

“We see major growth opportunities in central Australia, with 2500 kilometres of rail infrastructure and a line that runs directly into the Port of Darwin. We are investing in new cranes at the port to service customers through our portside terminal and the rail corridor has ample capacity to accommodate future growth.”

Mr Harding said containerised freight leverages installed assets and track infrastructure and gives the company the opportunity to develop land-bridging for Australian imports, through Darwin to southern capitals.

The financials

While the company’s total EBIDTA decreased slightly, EBITDA from its coal hauling operations was down 16% on the previous year to $455 million. The company attributed this decline to lower volumes caused by prolonged wet weather, a “major third-party derailment and mine-specific production issues”.

Over the year, the company hauled 185 million tonnes of coal, a decrease of 5% on the previous year.

In contrast to its coal business, Aurizon’s bulk business saw increases in numbers across the board. Bulk EBIDTA came to $214 million, an increase of 59% on the previous year. The company said this increase was primarily driven by revenues from One Rail Australia, which Aurizon acquired in late July 2022.

Bulk volumes were up 34% on the previous year to 68.2 million tonnes. Aurizon said this was driven by strong grain volumes, but this was partly offset by weather issues and “customer-specific production issues” in Queensland, New South Wales and the Northern Territory.

The company’s EBITDA for its network division was up 1% to $813 million.

Mr Harding said the operating environment was “challenging” in FY2023 due to prolonged wet weather impacting volumes and earnings.

“We saw an uptick in Coal (2%) and Network (9%) volumes in the June quarter, which gives us confidence in an improved outlook for FY2024,” he said.

“We are also anticipating increased activity for the Bulk and Containerised Freight businesses, as investments that we are making in new rollingstock, terminal and port equipment are progressively commissioned to support growth with new and existing contracts for our customers.”