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Company > Canadian National Railway Co: Business Model, SWOT Analysis, and Competitors 2024

Canadian National Railway Co: Business Model, SWOT Analysis, and Competitors 2024

Published: Jan 18, 2024

Inside This Article


    In this comprehensive blog article, we delve into the intricate workings of Canadian National Railway Co. (CN), a titan in the North American transportation industry. We will explore CN's robust business model, which has enabled it to maintain a competitive edge in a challenging market. Additionally, we'll conduct a detailed SWOT analysis to identify the company's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats as we move into 2024. Lastly, we'll compare CN with its key competitors, highlighting how the company stands out and areas where it faces stiff competition. This analysis aims to provide a holistic view of CN's position in the railway sector and its prospects for the future.

    What You Will Learn

    • Ownership and Mission Clarity: Discover who owns Canadian National Railway Co and understand the core mission that drives their operations, setting the stage for their strategic decisions and business direction.
    • Revenue Streams and Business Model: Uncover how Canadian National Railway Co generates income, with an in-depth exploration of their Business Model Canvas, providing insights into their value proposition, customer segments, and key activities.
    • Competitive Landscape and Strategic Insights: Learn about Canadian National Railway Co's main competitors and gain strategic insights through a comprehensive SWOT Analysis, helping you understand the company's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in the industry landscape.

    Who owns Canadian National Railway Co?

    Canadian National Railway Co., commonly known as CN, is a backbone of the North American transportation industry, providing a critical link between buyers and sellers across the continent. Founded in 1919, CN has grown to become one of the largest rail networks in North America, spanning Canada from coast to coast and extending into the United States. But who owns this vast, intricate network of rail lines? Understanding the ownership structure of Canadian National Railway Co. offers insights into its operations, strategies, and potential influence on the market.

    Publicly Traded Company

    First and foremost, Canadian National Railway Co. is a publicly traded company. Its shares are listed on both the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) and the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) under the ticker symbol "CNR" for the TSX and "CNI" for the NYSE. This means that ownership of the company is distributed among thousands of individual and institutional investors who buy shares in the open market. The public nature of the company ensures a level of transparency and accountability, as it is required to disclose financials, operational performance, and strategic plans to its shareholders.

    Institutional Investors

    While individual retail investors own a portion of CN, a significant share is held by institutional investors. These include pension funds, mutual funds, and insurance companies, among others. Institutional investors often hold large blocks of shares, giving them a considerable stake in the company's operations and governance. Among the notable institutional investors are some of Canada's largest pension funds, which have historically been active investors in the country's infrastructure and transportation sectors.

    Insider Ownership

    In addition to public and institutional ownership, a portion of CN's shares is held by insiders - individuals who are or were part of the company's executive team or board of directors. Insider ownership is typically a small percentage of the total shares but can be a sign of confidence in the company's future prospects. Insiders have unique insights into the company's operations, strategies, and challenges, and their investment choices are often closely watched by market analysts and investors.

    Canadian Government

    While the Canadian government no longer owns a direct stake in CN, it played a pivotal role in the company's history. CN was originally a government-owned corporation before it was fully privatized in 1995 through one of Canada's largest-ever public share offerings. The privatization marked a significant shift in CN's strategy and operations, moving from a government entity to a competitive, profit-driven organization. Although the government no longer owns shares, CN continues to operate under federal regulations and oversight, ensuring its alignment with national transportation policies and objectives.


    Ownership of Canadian National Railway Co. reflects a blend of public investors, institutional stakeholders, insiders, and the historical footprint of the Canadian government's privatization. This diverse ownership structure supports a governance model that balances various interests, driving CN's continued growth and operational efficiency. As a publicly traded company, CN is accountable to its shareholders, who collectively influence its strategic direction through their investment decisions.

    What is the mission statement of Canadian National Railway Co?

    What is the mission statement of Canadian National Railway Co?

    The Canadian National Railway Co. (CN) operates with a clear and compelling mission statement that guides its operations, strategic decisions, and overall direction. This mission is articulated as follows: "To be the leading North American transportation and logistics company, delivering superior customer experiences and shareholder value." This succinct yet powerful statement encapsulates the core objectives and aspirations of CN, emphasizing its commitment to excellence in service, efficiency in operations, and value creation for its stakeholders.

    At the heart of CN's mission is the dedication to superior customer experiences. This commitment reflects the company's understanding that the foundation of its success lies in its ability to meet and exceed the expectations of its diverse customer base. Whether it involves transporting bulk commodities, finished goods, or facilitating intermodal transport solutions, CN strives to offer reliable, efficient, and cost-effective services tailored to the unique needs of each customer.

    Furthermore, CN's mission emphasizes its ambition to be a leader not just in Canada but across North American transportation and logistics. This geographic scope underlines the company's expansive operational network, which spans Canada and the United States, reaching coast to coast and providing critical links to international markets. By leveraging its strategic assets, advanced technology, and comprehensive service offerings, CN aims to maintain and enhance its competitive position in the North American transportation sector.

    Lastly, the mission statement underscores the importance of delivering shareholder value. CN recognizes that its ability to generate sustainable financial performance and growth is crucial for its stakeholders, including employees, customers, and shareholders. This focus on financial health and strategic growth initiatives ensures that the company can continue to invest in its infrastructure, innovate its services, and expand its reach, thereby securing its long-term success and resilience.

    In summary, the mission statement of Canadian National Railway Co. reflects its aspiration to lead with excellence, innovate in service delivery, and achieve sustainable growth, all while maintaining a steadfast focus on its customers, employees, and shareholders. This mission not only guides CN's strategic direction but also serves as a beacon for its operational and ethical standards, driving the company towards a future of continued success and leadership in the North American transportation and logistics industry.

    How does Canadian National Railway Co make money?

    How does Canadian National Railway Co make money?

    Canadian National Railway Co (CN) operates as a backbone of the Canadian and North American economy, facilitating the movement of goods across vast distances. Its revenue generation strategies are multifaceted, reflecting the complexity of modern freight transport. Below, we explore the primary ways through which CN makes money.

    Freight Transportation

    The cornerstone of CN's revenue stream is its freight transportation service. CN transports a diverse array of commodities, including raw materials like coal and metals, agricultural products, automotive goods, and consumer products. By offering a wide range of freight services, CN caters to the needs of various industries, making it a critical player in the supply chain. The pricing of these services depends on several factors, including the type of goods, the distance they need to be transported, and the level of service required, allowing CN to maximize its revenue from freight operations.

    Intermodal Services

    Intermodal services represent a significant portion of CN's business model. This service involves the transportation of goods in a single container using multiple modes of transport - from rail to trucks and even ships - without any handling of the freight itself when changing modes. This efficient and cost-effective method of transporting goods is particularly appealing to businesses looking to minimize the time and cost associated with shipping. By offering competitive intermodal services, CN taps into the growing demand for seamless, cross-border freight solutions, further bolstering its revenue.

    Ancillary Services

    In addition to its core operations, CN generates revenue through various ancillary services. These include logistics and supply chain solutions, transloading and distribution services, and rail property leasing. By offering a suite of complementary services, CN enhances its value proposition to customers, encouraging them to opt for CN as a one-stop solution for their transportation needs. These ancillary services not only contribute directly to CN's revenue but also help in strengthening customer loyalty and attracting new business.

    Tariffs and Fuel Surcharges

    Tariffs and fuel surcharges are another vital revenue source for CN. Tariffs are fees charged for the use of CN's rail infrastructure and services, which can vary based on the type of cargo, distance traveled, and the level of service required. Fuel surcharges, on the other hand, are fees added to the cost of transportation to compensate for fluctuations in fuel prices. Given the volatility of fuel prices, these surcharges play a crucial role in ensuring that CN's operating costs are covered, thereby protecting its profit margins.

    In summary, Canadian National Railway Co's revenue model is diversified, leveraging its expansive rail network and comprehensive service offerings. Through freight transportation, intermodal services, ancillary services, and strategic pricing mechanisms such as tariffs and fuel surcharges, CN effectively meets the needs of a broad customer base while ensuring steady revenue streams. This multifaceted approach positions CN as a key player not only in the Canadian economy but also in the broader North American transportation sector.

    Canadian National Railway Co Business Model Canvas Explained

    The Canadian National Railway Co (CN) represents a cornerstone in the transportation industry, not just within Canada but across North America. Understanding its business model provides insights into how it has sustained its growth and continues to play a crucial role in the economy. A Business Model Canvas can succinctly explain the various components that make CN's operations successful. Here, we dissect the Canadian National Railway Co's business model canvas, breaking it down into its fundamental aspects.

    Key Partners

    CN's key partners include intermodal shippers, coal companies, automotive manufacturers, and agricultural producers. Additionally, it has partnerships with other rail networks, allowing for more extensive service coverage, and with port authorities to facilitate the seamless transfer of goods from rail to sea. These partnerships are crucial for expanding CN's service offerings and ensuring efficient logistics and supply chain solutions.

    Key Activities

    The primary activities of CN involve freight transportation, including intermodal transport, bulk cargo, and automotive freight services. These activities are supported by network and route management, ensuring efficient and timely delivery of goods across vast distances. Maintenance of railways, trains, and other infrastructure is also a critical activity that ensures safety and reliability in services.

    Key Resources

    CN's key resources are its comprehensive rail network spanning Canada and parts of the United States, its locomotives and freight cars, and its technological infrastructure. This includes logistics and tracking systems that enable efficient route planning, real-time tracking of freight, and predictive maintenance of equipment. Human resources, including skilled labor for operations and maintenance, also play a vital role.

    Value Propositions

    CN offers a compelling value proposition that includes reliable and efficient transportation services across a vast geographic area. Its ability to move goods in a cost-effective manner, coupled with a strong focus on safety and sustainability, positions CN as a preferred choice for businesses needing freight services. Additionally, its intermodal services provide flexibility for customers looking for door-to-door delivery solutions.

    Customer Relationships

    CN maintains its customer relationships through dedicated account management teams, customer service centers, and an online portal that provides customers with the ability to track shipments, manage logistics, and access support. Building long-term relationships and ensuring customer satisfaction through reliable service delivery are central to CN's business model.


    CN utilizes various channels to engage with its customers, including direct sales teams, its corporate website, and industry trade shows. The direct sales teams play a crucial role in understanding customer needs and developing tailored solutions, while the website serves as a platform for information dissemination and service tracking.

    Customer Segments

    The Canadian National Railway Co serves a diverse range of customer segments, including intermodal shippers, coal and minerals mining companies, automotive manufacturers, agricultural producers, and chemical companies. Each segment has specific needs and requirements, which CN addresses through its specialized services and solutions.

    Cost Structure

    CN's cost structure is characterized by high fixed costs associated with maintaining and upgrading rail infrastructure, rolling stock, and technology systems. Variable costs include fuel, labor, and maintenance expenses. CN focuses on optimizing its operations and leveraging economies of scale to manage these costs effectively.

    Revenue Streams

    The company's revenue streams are primarily derived from freight transportation services, including bulk commodities, intermodal transport, and automotive shipping. Other sources include transloading and logistics services, rail property leasing, and other ancillary services. CN's diversified service offerings allow it to capture value across different segments of the freight transportation market.

    By dissecting the Canadian National Railway Co's business model canvas, we gain a comprehensive understanding of how it operates and delivers value to its customers. CN's ability to integrate and optimize its key resources, activities, and partnerships underpins its success in the competitive transportation industry.

    Which companies are the competitors of Canadian National Railway Co?

    Which companies are the competitors of Canadian National Railway Co?

    Canadian National Railway Co. (CN) is a leading player in the rail transportation industry, not just within Canada but across North America. CN's rail network spans Canada from coast to coast and extends through the Midwest and Southern United States, making it a vital conduit for trade across the continent. However, despite its expansive network and significant role in freight transportation, CN does not operate in isolation. It faces stiff competition from several key players in the industry, each vying for a share of the lucrative rail freight market.

    Canadian Pacific Railway (CP)

    One of CN's most direct competitors is the Canadian Pacific Railway. Like CN, CP boasts an extensive rail network that stretches across Canada and dips into the United States, providing similar transcontinental freight services. The rivalry between CN and CP is a historic one, with both companies fiercely competing for market share and rail corridors. CP's strategic acquisitions and focus on operational efficiency make it a formidable competitor to CN in the battle for freight dominance in North America.

    CSX Corporation (CSX)

    South of the border, CSX Corporation stands as a significant competitor to CN, especially in the Eastern United States. CSX's rail network is a critical component of the North American transportation infrastructure, providing a direct challenge to CN's aspirations in the same regions. With its strong presence in the eastern U.S., CSX competes with CN over key freight corridors and customer contracts, making it an essential player in the competitive landscape.

    Union Pacific Railroad (UP)

    Union Pacific Railroad is another major competitor, operating primarily in the Western United States. UP has the largest rail network in America, giving it a competitive edge in terms of service range and freight capacity. Its extensive network directly competes with CN's routes, especially in cross-border trade between the U.S. and Canada. Union Pacific's scale and operational efficiency make it a formidable adversary for CN in the western and central regions of the United States.

    Norfolk Southern Corporation (NS)

    Norfolk Southern Corporation is yet another rival, with a significant presence in the Eastern United States. NS operates a comprehensive rail network that overlaps with CN's routes in several key areas, particularly in the southeastern U.S. This positioning puts Norfolk Southern in direct competition with CN for freight traffic moving to and from this region, making it a crucial player in the competitive landscape CN navigates.

    BNSF Railway (BNSF)

    Owned by Berkshire Hathaway, BNSF Railway is one of the largest freight railroad networks in the United States. Its network competes with CN's, particularly in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest. BNSF's extensive coverage, innovative services, and strategic partnerships pose a competitive challenge to CN, especially in attracting cross-border trade and intermodal freight.


    While Canadian National Railway Co. maintains a significant presence in the North American rail industry, it operates in a highly competitive environment. Each of its competitors, from Canadian Pacific Railway to BNSF Railway, brings unique strengths and strategic advantages to the table. This competitive dynamic ensures that CN must continually innovate and enhance its operations to maintain and grow its market position. The competition not only keeps CN on its toes but also benefits customers through improved efficiency, service options, and pricing.

    Canadian National Railway Co SWOT Analysis


    One of the most significant strengths of Canadian National Railway Co (CN) is its comprehensive network of track, spanning across Canada and into the United States. This extensive coverage allows CN to offer unparalleled access to North American markets, facilitating the smooth transportation of goods across long distances. The company's strategic positioning at key ports and terminals further enhances its logistical capabilities, making it a critical component in the supply chains of many industries.

    Another major strength is CN's diversified freight portfolio. Unlike some of its competitors, CN transports a wide variety of goods, including commodities, manufactured products, and consumer goods. This diversification helps insulate the company from sector-specific downturns, ensuring a steady stream of revenue even when certain segments of the economy are struggling.


    Despite its strengths, CN faces challenges related to operational efficiency and infrastructure maintenance. The sheer scale of its network, while an asset, also presents logistical complexities and high maintenance costs. Aging infrastructure in some areas can lead to service disruptions, affecting the company's reliability and increasing repair costs over time.

    Labour relations have also been a point of contention for CN. Strikes and labour disputes can halt operations, leading to delays, increased costs, and strained relationships with customers. Maintaining positive labour relations is crucial for the company's long-term success and operational continuity.


    The push towards sustainability presents a significant opportunity for CN. Rail transportation is one of the most efficient and environmentally friendly methods of freight transport, and as businesses and governments seek to reduce carbon footprints, CN is well-positioned to capitalize on this trend. Investments in cleaner technologies and more efficient locomotives could further enhance CN's appeal to environmentally conscious customers.

    Expansion of services and geographical reach offers another growth avenue for CN. By extending its network or enhancing service offerings, such as through digitalization and improved customer service platforms, CN can attract new customers and secure a larger market share.


    Competition from other modes of transportation, including trucking and potentially autonomous vehicles in the future, poses a constant threat to CN's market position. These alternatives might offer faster or more flexible options for certain types of freight, potentially eroding CN's customer base.

    Regulatory changes and trade tensions can also impact CN significantly. As a cross-border operation, CN is susceptible to changes in trade policies between Canada and the United States. Increased tariffs, border delays, or restrictive trade policies could negatively affect the volume of goods transported, thereby harming the company's profitability.

    In summary, Canadian National Railway Co's extensive network and diversified freight portfolio stand as its primary strengths, offering robust access to North American markets. However, operational and labor-related challenges, alongside external threats from competition, regulatory changes, and trade tensions, necessitate strategic focus and innovation to sustain growth and market leadership.

    Key Takeaways

    • Ownership Structure of Canadian National Railway Co.: Canadian National Railway Co. (CN) is a publicly traded company, with shares owned by a wide array of institutional and individual investors. Its ownership is diverse, with no single entity holding a controlling stake, reflecting its status as one of North America's largest railroads.

    • Mission Statement and Goals: CN's mission is focused on moving goods safely and efficiently across North America and beyond, emphasizing sustainability, innovation, and customer satisfaction. The company aims to be the leading transportation and logistics service provider by connecting economies and communities with seamless rail solutions.

    • Revenue Generation Strategies: CN generates its income through a variety of services, including freight transportation, logistical support, and supply chain management. The company's diversified portfolio allows it to cater to multiple sectors, including automotive, coal, fertilizers, forest products, and more, leveraging its extensive rail network and intermodal services.

    • Business Model Insights: The CN Business Model Canvas highlights the company's comprehensive approach to delivering value through key partnerships, activities, and resources, along with a strong focus on customer relationships and revenue streams. This model supports CN's strategic positioning by emphasizing efficiency, innovation, and a broad service offering.

    • Competition and Market Positioning: CN faces competition from other major railroads like Canadian Pacific Railway Limited (CP), as well as from trucking companies, maritime shipping firms, and air freight services. Despite this, CN's extensive rail network, strategic partnerships, and commitment to service excellence help it maintain a competitive edge. A SWOT analysis reveals that while CN capitalizes on its strengths, such as a vast network and diversified revenue sources, it must also navigate challenges like regulatory pressures and market competition.


    In conclusion, Canadian National Railway Co. (CN) stands as a bastion of freight transportation in North America, owned by a wide array of shareholders, including individual and institutional investors. The company's mission to move goods safely, efficiently, and sustainably underscores its commitment to excellence and environmental stewardship. CN generates revenue through its comprehensive freight services, capitalizing on a business model that emphasizes operational efficiency, strategic network advantages, and diversified cargo.

    The Business Model Canvas for CN highlights its robust value propositions, key activities, and partnerships, alongside a strong customer relationship strategy that collectively ensure its competitive edge. Despite facing stiff competition from major players like Canadian Pacific Railway, Norfolk Southern, and Union Pacific, CN has managed to maintain its market position through strategic investments, technological innovations, and a focus on customer service.

    The SWOT analysis underscores CN's strengths, such as its strategic geographic coverage and diversified freight portfolio, while also acknowledging challenges, including regulatory risks and competition. Opportunities for expansion and embracing green technologies present pathways for growth, even as the threat of economic downturns and environmental regulations loom.

    Overall, CN's strategic approach to navigating the complexities of the freight transportation industry, combined with its solid business model and a clear understanding of its competitive landscape, positions it well for future growth and success. Whether through enhancing operational efficiencies, exploring new markets, or focusing on sustainability, Canadian National Railway Co. is poised to continue its legacy as a leader in North America's transportation sector.


    What are the core values of CN rail?

    The core values of CN Rail are:

    1. Safety: Ensuring the safety of employees, customers, and communities is the top priority for CN Rail.

    2. Integrity: Acting with honesty, transparency, and ethical behavior in all business dealings.

    3. Respect: Treating all individuals with dignity and respect, regardless of background or position.

    4. Accountability: Taking responsibility for actions and decisions, and delivering on commitments.

    5. Excellence: Striving for continuous improvement, innovation, and high performance in all aspects of operations.

    6. Sustainability: Committing to environmental stewardship, social responsibility, and economic viability for future generations.

    Is Canadian National Railway a good buy?

    It ultimately depends on individual investment goals and risk tolerance. Canadian National Railway is a well-established company with a strong track record of performance and a leading position in the North American rail industry. It also offers a solid dividend yield for income-seeking investors.

    However, like any investment, there are risks to consider. The rail industry can be cyclical and sensitive to economic downturns, which could impact the company's financial performance. Additionally, regulatory changes and competition from other transportation modes could also affect Canadian National Railway's future prospects.

    Before making any investment decision, it is important to conduct thorough research, consider your own investment objectives, and consult with a financial advisor.

    What happened to Canadian National Railway?

    There is no specific event or incident that happened to the Canadian National Railway as a whole. The company continues to operate as one of the largest railway companies in Canada, providing freight and passenger services across the country. If you are looking for specific information or updates about the Canadian National Railway, it is recommended to check their official website or news sources for the latest information.

    What is Canadian National Railway known for?

    Canadian National Railway (CN) is known for being the largest and most extensive railway network in Canada. It is a Class I freight railway that operates over 20,000 miles of track across Canada and the United States, making it one of the largest and most important transportation companies in North America. CN is known for its efficient and reliable transportation services for moving goods, including raw materials, finished products, and consumer goods, across its expansive network.

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