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Shares of Norfolk Southern (NSC) - Get Free Report are lower Wednesday after the freight-rail operator's third-quarter results fell below analyst expectations. 

The Norfolk, Va., company's third-quarter earnings per share were $2.49, down 1.2% from $2.52 in the year-earlier quarter. Shares outstanding fell 5% to 264.3 million. Analysts surveyed by FactSet were expecting the company to earn $2.58 a share.

The earnings result reflects a write-off of a receivable due to a legal dispute. That write-off cut profit by 9 cents a share, Norfolk Southern said.

Revenue fell 3.6% year over year to $2.84 billion. The FactSet survey was looking for $2.85 billion. 

"[Additional] productivity will be generated as we advance to the third phase of TOP21 and execute initiatives surrounding fuel efficiency, distributed power, intermodal operations, and our mechanical network, just to name a few," CEO James Squires said in a statement. TOP21 is what NSC has called a "precision scheduled railroad operating plan" and a key part of its strategy.

Railway expenses fell by $82 million, or 4.3%, to $1.85 billion. 

In the premarket Norfolk Southern shares are down 1.9% to $185.30.

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