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Home / News & Reviews / News Wire / Canadian National announces competing bid for Kansas City Southern (updated)

Canadian National announces competing bid for Kansas City Southern (updated)

By Bill Stephens | April 20, 2021

CN offers 21% premium over Canadian Pacific bid

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Map of combined Canadian National-Kansas City Southern system
Map of combined Canadian National-Kansas City Southern system
Canadian National released this map showing what its combination with Kansas City Southern would look like. (Canadian National)

Let the bidding war begin.

Canadian National today topped rival Canadian Pacific’s $29 billion offer for Kansas City Southern in what one analyst called “an aggressive move.”

Canadian National logoCN’s $33.7 billion offer is a 21% premium to the deal CP reached with KCS last month. CN is offering KCS investors $325 per share, including $200 per share in cash and 1.059 CN shares. CP plans to pay $275 per share, including $90 in cash, in a deal that currently has unanimous support of both railways’ boards.

The KCS board will be required to consider the CN offer, and analysts expect CP to up the ante with a new bid of its own.

“Overall, we are the better bid, the better partner, the better railway, and the best solution for KCS and for the North American economy,” CN CEO JJ Ruest told analysts and investors on a webcast this morning.

CN’s move, like CP’s, would create the first railroad to serve Canada, the U.S., and Mexico. But CN said its “superior proposal” would be better for KCS shareholders and result in post-merger synergies of $1 billion, topping CP’s estimates of $780 million. A CN-KCS merger also would create shorter, faster routes than the CP-KCS combination.

“The combination of CN and KCS would create a premium railway for the 21st century, connecting ports of the United States, Mexico, and Canada to facilitate trade and to power economic prosperity across North America,” Ruest says. “Our combination with KCS would create a company with broader reach, greater scale, and with the ability to connect more customers to more rail destinations and ports with robust single operator service.”

In a letter to the KCS board this morning, Ruest said CN has spent considerable time reviewing a potential combination of the two railways. “We have long admired KCS, your customer-focused vision and your commitment to safety, service and performance,” he wrote.

KCS would continue to retain its name in the U.S. and Mexico and be based in Kansas City, Mo.

The CN and KCS networks, while complimentary, have more overlap than a CP-KCS combination. CP and KCS touch only at Kansas City, while CN and KCS connect at Jackson, Miss., St. Louis, and Springfield, Ill.

They also parallel one another between Baton Rouge and New Orleans for about 65 miles, a stretch where both railroads jointly serve five customers who operate nine plants, CN Chief Operating Officer Rob Reilly says. “The rest of the network is truly end to end,” he says, noting there are a number of ways to address any competitive concerns in Louisiana.

CN executives said the combination would attract broad shipper support and would be able to gain regulatory approval from the U.S. Surface Transportation Board. They would put KCS in a voting trust while a deal undergoes review, as is common practice, and expect STB approval.

CN’s KCS merger proposal would not require approval of CN shareholders.

Ruest said it’s an ideal time to combine CN and KCS due to the USMCA free trade deal, the North American economy awakening from the pandemic, and the potential for increased near-shoring of manufacturing from Asia to Mexico.

“What’s really missing in North America at this point is really a true north-south transcontinental railroad,” Ruest says.

Tying the CN and KCS networks together would enable the railway to better compete against trucks, Ruest says, noting that most of the $800 million in revenue growth from the proposed merger would come from diverting truck traffic to rail.

CN launched a new website, connectedcontinent.com, to tout the potential combination with KCS, the smallest Class I railroad.

CP and KCS have not yet commented on CN’s announcement.

Combining CN and KCS would create the third-largest Class I railroad in North America, a 26,300-mile railroad with nearly $14 billion in revenue, based on their 2020 performance.

The combined company would be larger than CSX Transportation, Norfolk Southern, and Canadian Pacific when measured by miles or revenue.

In contrast, CP+KCS would still be the smallest Class I system.

— Updated at 10:55 a.m. with additional details

5 thoughts on “Canadian National announces competing bid for Kansas City Southern (updated)

  1. If CP thought they could get this merger through on the old STB rules, that is done. Even if CP prevails it is clear this could trigger the final round of big mergers.

  2. Wish I had moved on buying stock in KCS. On the other hand any leveraging of these buyouts can not be good . . .

  3. This reminds me of the UP’s bid for the Santa Fe. It was unlikely that the UP could get regulatory approval (parallel LA-Chicago and Chicago-Texas routes) but it certainly forced the BN to pay more. The CN is also unlikely to get approval but it will certainly force the CP to pay more. However the KCS is certainly a better match with the CN as far as routes are concerned, especially for traffic going east from Chicago.

    1. ROBERT – You bring up a compelling point about lines east of Chicago. I would phrase it like this: – lines east of Kansas City. My opinion is that CP – KCS should buy a line or get rights over a more or less direct line from KCMO to Detroit/ Windsor. CP has woken up over the last few years that eastern Canada still exists. What is the point of CP owning the Detroit – Windsor tunnel if it has no good route from Detroit to its new hub at Kansas City? … As for CN buying KCS, I can’t see that getting approved on account of competition issues.

  4. This would seem to me to be an anticompetitive practice. CN already owns the only other North South mainline in that area (CSX and NS further east and BNSF/UP further west), so it would mean a potential monopoly for CN, instead of a duopoly.

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