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CP profit rises 19%, but productivity indicator slips

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Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd.'s (CP-T) fourth-quarter profit climbed 19 percent, but a key indicator of productivity worsened.

CP reported Thursday it posted a $221 million profit for the three months ended Dec. 31, compared with $186 million in the same period in 2010.

Calgary-based CP's operating ratio, which measures costs as a percentage of revenue, rose to 81.3 per cent last year, up from 77.6 per cent in 2010. A lower number is better and CP's operating ratio is the worst among North America's Big Six railways.

Canadian National Railway Co. has the industry's best operating cost-to-sales ratio, lowering it slightly to 63.5 per cent in 2011, compared with 63.6 per cent in 2010.

CP has been under pressure from U.S. hedge fund Pershing Square Capital Management LP to stage a turnaround. New York-based Pershing CEO Bill Ackman is waging a proxy fight to replace CP CEO Fred Green with Hunter Harrison, CN's former CEO.

CP expects to improve its operating ratio to the low 70s within three years, but Ackman and Harrison believe they will be able to reduce it to 65 per cent.

On Monday, CN launched legal proceedings against Harrison in Illinois, seeking a declaration that it is reasonable and lawful for the railway to halt his pension benefits with a present value of $20.6 million and restricted share units worth $17.9 million.

CN's court complaint alleges that the former CN CEO's consulting work in 2011 for Pershing Square constituted a breach of his non-compete provisions reached with CN and he intends to further violate non-compete restrictions by joining CP to harm CN.

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