Revenue up, but IPO expenses drag down Norwegian in Q1

By Tom Stieghorst
Norwegian Cruise Line posted a $96.4 million first-quarter loss, but said accounting rules that require it to recognize some one-time expenses mask a solid improvement in its business.
The loss compared with net income of $3.3 million in Q1 2012.

Norwegian said that without $110 million in expense related to its public offering in January, its income would have been $12.9 million in the most recent quarter ended Jan. 31.

Revenue rose to $527.6 million from $515.4 million.

"We had a fantastic quarter, above consensus," CEO Kevin Sheehan said in an interview.

The expenses include costs tied to pre-paying bonds and stock compensation for former executives.

Sheehan said that by using the proceeds of the public offering, Norwegian was able to replace secured debt that carried 11.5% interest rates with unsecured debt that costs about 5%.

Norwegian raised $447 million in the quarter by selling 23.5 million shares for $19 each.

Excluding fuel, net cruise costs fell 1.5% in the quarter, but Sheehan said the expense of introducing the Norwegian Breakaway will likely raise cruise costs by 5% to 6% in the current quarter.

But he said the entire brand would benefit from the Breakaway publicity.

"We think with the Breakaway and all the excitement around the ship, we expect to see a lot of eyes looking at the Norwegian product," Sheehan said.

In a conference call with analysts, Sheehan said Q1 bookings were affected by the Carnival Triumph woes. "It would be unrealistic to say there was no impact from all of the news that came out in the last couple of months," he said.

But Sheehan characterized the impact as "on the margin."

"As a company, and I believe as an industry, we've been able to work through that," he said.

Sheehan also said Norwegian is starting to see momentum in Europe. "The booking volume has really accelerated in the last coupe of weeks," he said.

Looking ahead, Sheehan said when Breakaway's sister ship Norwegian Getaway is introduced in Miami next year, the Norwegian Pearl will also be sailing from Miami but many of its cruises have been chartered.

"That will take inventory away from the market when Getaway arrives," he said.
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