Norfolk Southern: Impairment charge to help lower Q3 operating expenses

A photograph of a Norfolk Southern train.

An approximately $99 million impairment charge will help lower third-quarter operating expenses and operating ratio for Norfolk Southern (NYSE: NSC), according to a company filing late Wednesday to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Norfolk Southern (NS) expects to have the non-cash impairment charge in the third quarter related to the value of one of its equity method investments, the railroad said in the Wednesday filing.

Preliminary operating expenses are $1.67 billion for the third quarter of 2020, but the impairment charge will result in adjusted railway operating expenses of $1.57 billion, NS said. Meanwhile, NS expects its third-quarter operating ratio to be 66.5%, but the impairment charge will result in an adjusted operating ratio of 62.5%. 

Operating ratio is a financial metric that investors sometimes use to gauge the financial health of a company. A lower operating ratio can imply improved financial health.

NS also anticipates that third-quarter operating revenue will total around $2.5 billion.

(Chart: Norfolk Southern)

NS will announce its third-quarter results on Oct. 28. 

In the third quarter of 2019, NS reported operating revenue of $2.8 billion and operating expenses of $1.8 billion.

Investors noted that the impairment charge provides an earnings per share (EPS) upside to the company.

“The upside 3Q margin in NSC’s post-close pre-announcement was better than our above-consensus update from yesterday and gives us even greater conviction in our bullish mid-term view on NSC’s shares ahead of the earnings call in three weeks,” said a Wednesday note from investment firm Susquehanna FInancial Group. The firm raised its EPS estimate for NS by 10 cents to $2.43 as a result of Wednesday’s update. 

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