29 October 2009 20:44 [Source: ICIS news]
HOUSTON (ICIS news)--The CEOs of the two largest US inland barge operators differed in regards to the prospects for next year, according to conference calls on Thursday.
Joe Pyne, CEO of Kirby, the largest US inland barge and towboat company, described the business currently as being "near the bottom". However, the firm's petrochemical and refining customers "appear to be more optimistic in their 2010 outlook".
Mike Ryan, chief of the second largest US barge and towboat firm, American Commercial Lines (ACL), disagreed with Pyne's assessment.
"I bet for every one [customer] that they find positive we can find one that's pessimistic," Ryan said. "It's still a mixed bag out there.…We're going to remain cautious."
ACL lost $12.2m (€8.3m) in the quarter compared with a profit of $18.3m in the same quarter of 2008. Ryan said the loss stemmed from a drop in the firm's most profitable markets, which include petrochemicals plus grain and metals transport.
Kirby reported a profit of $35m in the quarter, down 16.3% from the same period of 2008. Pyne said demand remained below prior year levels but said the company continued to see improvement in midwest petrochemical demand, driven by inventory growth.
Pyne said that, because of declining profits and revenues in all categories of Kirby's business, cost-cutting would continue through the end of this year and throughout most of 2010.
"There's a growing consensus that the business is going to improve towards the end of next year," Pyne said.
($1 = €0.68)
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