Aviation firm Delta Air Lines (DAL) reported stronger than expected earnings for the fourth quarter when strong top-line performance more than offset the impact of higher fuel costs. However, the company’s stock dropped in the pre-market Tuesday after its guidance missed expectations.
Net income climbed to $1.02 billion or $1.49 per share in the fourth quarter from $0.30 billion or $0.42 per share in the same period last year. On an adjusted basis, earnings rose to $1.30 per share from $0.92 per share in the year-ago quarter and surpassed Wall Street estimates. The bottom-line growth was restricted by a 27% increase in adjusted fuel expenses, which pushed up total operating expenses.
The bottom-line growth was restricted by a 27% increase in adjusted fuel expenses, which pushed up total operating expenses
Operating revenue, on an adjusted basis, advanced 5% annually to $10.74 billion during the three-month period. Passenger revenue, which accounts for the lion’s share of total revenues, moved up 7% and cargo revenues rose 5%. Passenger revenue per available seat mile advanced 2.7% annually, while adjusted total revenue per available seat mile rose by 3.2%.
“As we move into 2019, we expect to drive double-digit earnings growth through higher revenues, maintaining a cost trajectory below inflation, and the modest benefit from lower fuel costs. Margin expansion is a business imperative and we remain confident in our full-year earnings guidance of $6 to $7 per share,” said Delta CEO Ed Bastian.
The management is currently looking for earnings in the range of $0.70 per share to $0.90 per share for the first quarter of 2019 when pre-tax margin is anticipated to be between 6.5% and 8.5%. However, the expected performance falls short of analysts’ prediction. Adjusted revenue per available seat miles is estimated to be flat to up 2%. Cost per available seat mile, on an adjusted basis, is seen rising by 1-2% and system capacity by about 4%.
During the quarter, the company returned $563 million to shareholders, which included $325 million of share repurchases and $238 million in dividends.
Delta’s shares closed the last trading session lower and lost further in early trading Tuesday. The stock has been on a downtrend for the last twelve months.
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