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CN Rail CEO Claude Mongeau at the company's annual general meeting in Vancouver on April 23, 2014.DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

Claude Mongeau, chief executive officer of Canadian National Railway Co., is back at work after a six-month break recovering from treatment for a throat tumour.

The CEO of Canada's largest railway will lead CN's conference call on Tuesday to talk about the company's fourth-quarter and full-year financial results, his first such call since stepping back in early August for the removal of a tumour in his throat described as "precancerous." Doctors removed his larynx and placed a voice prosthesis in his throat.

While Mr. Mongeau was never entirely detached from the operations of the railway, which has a 20,000-mile network across Canada and the United States, chief financial officer Luc Jobin took charge in his absence. Mr. Mongeau, 54, began working at CN in 1994 and became CEO in 2010. Mr. Mongeau was not available for an interview on Monday.

A lot happened in the months he was away:

  • The railway industry found itself deep in a commodity slump driven by low demand and prices for coal, ores and other industrial raw materials. The freight slowdown, particularly in the United States, has driven down railway share prices and spurred fears for the broader economy.
  • CN in August began a legal battle against rival Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. and four former CN employees now at CP over the removal and use of CN client information.
  • CP launched an unwanted takeover attempt of Virginia-based railway Norfolk Southern Corp., touching off a debate over consolidation in an industry dominated by six carriers. The takeover attempt, hotly opposed by Norfolk Southern, U.S. politicians and a long list of railway customers, prompted industry watchers to brush up on the merger rules written by the U.S. Surface Transportation Board in 2001. That’s shortly after the U.S. regulator blocked a proposed merger between Burlington Northern Sante Fe and CN.
  • CN last week pushed ahead with its plans to build a $250-million train-truck hub west of Toronto, applying to the Canadian Transportation Agency for approval of the 160-hectare project. The container facility, built on CN land along its main line in Milton, Ont., is intended to relieve pressure on the company’s other intermodal terminals, which have not been as affected by the freight slowdown as other lines of business.

For the final three months of 2015, CN is expected to report profit per share of $1.11. Royal Bank of Canada equities analyst Walter Spracklin, who recently reduced his CN estimate, said the company's results will be aided by a weak Canadian dollar and an efficient rail network.

CN's earnings will be reported on Tuesday after markets close, followed by the analysts' call at 4:30 p.m.

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