RCCL reports first-quarter income rose 80%

MIAMI -- Royal Caribbean Cruises' reported a strong first quarter as net income totaled $95.8 million, an 80% increase that far outstripped the firm's 21% growth in revenue, which topped out at $1.1. billion.

The company attributed the jump to a 13.4% increase in capacity and an increase in cruise prices. Net yields increased 5.3%, and the company predicted full-year 2004 yields will increase between 5% and 7%.

"Although we came in at the low end of our net yield guidance, I don't think anyone can complain about a 5% improvement in yield," Richard Fain, RCCL's CEO, said during a conference call with analysts.

In other earnings news:

Sabre reported declines in revenue and earnings on an unadjusted basis but declared its first-quarter results were "excellent" on an adjusted basis that restated certain 2003 results.

On an unadjusted basis, revenue fell 1%, to $540 million, and net earnings dropped by more than a third, to $43 million. With adjustments to 2003 data, however, the revenue line shows a 6.4% increase and net earnings come out flat at $51 million.

Travelocity's gross bookings rose nearly 28% and topped $1 billion, but the online unit still contributed an operating loss. Global bookings in the Sabre system increased 12%, to 105 million.

Marriott, reporting for the 12 weeks ended March 26, said revenue rose 11%, to more than $2.2 billion, yielding net income from continuing operations of $114 million, a 31% increase. Occupancy rates across all brands rose 2.5 points, to 69.6%, and the average daily rate rose 1.8%, to $11.02, Marriott said.

Cendant boosted its first-quarter net income to $441 million, a 43% increase fueled by gains in its car rental and vehicle services unit, now its largest division, with quarterly revenue approaching $1.4 billion. Total corporate revenue was up 8%, to nearly $4.5 billion.

Revenue in the Travel Distribution Services division grew 9%, primarily because of an 8% increase in Galileo's booking fees and the March 2003 acquisition of Trip Network, which operates Cheap Tickets. Galileo's domestic air bookings rose 2%, and international bookings climbed 6%.

American's parent AMR narrowed its first-quarter net loss to $166 million, down from $1 billion a year ago; revenue rose 9.5%, to $4.5 billion. CEO Gerard Arpey said he is "pleased with how far we have come over the past 12 months."

Northwest lost $230 million in the first quarter, an improvement from the $396 million loss reported for last year's first quarter. Revenue rose 9.6%, to $2.6 billion, while operating expenses rose a mere 0.4% despite rising fuel prices, reflecting the carrier's cost-cutting efforts. Northwest ended the quarter with $3.1 billion in cash, $2.9 billion of it unrestricted.

America West
America West reported a $1.2 million profit on a 10.2% increase in operating revenue, to $576.4 million. Though small, the first-quarter profit reverses a $62 million loss in first-quarter 2003, and helped America West end March with $545 million in cash, its highest first-quarter balance in history.

JetBlue saw its profit fall 12.5%, to $15.2 million. Operating revenue rose 33%, to $289 million, thanks to a 42% traffic increase on a 44.6% rise in capacity.

JetBlue's operating margin slipped from 15.9%, to 11.3%, but remained high for the airline industry. JetBlue ended the quarter with $585 million in cash and short-term investments.


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