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United Airlines earnings top estimates, but sees wider-than-expected Q1 loss



© Reuters. — United Airlines reported fourth-quarter results that topped estimates, but the airline said it expects a wider-than-expected loss in its current quarter owing to the impact of the recent grounding of Boeing’s (NYSE:) 737 Max 9 jet.
Shares in Chicago-based United (NASDAQ:) jumped in premarket U.S. trading following the report, pulling up peers American Airlines (NASDAQ:) and Delta Air Lines (NYSE:).
United adjusted earnings per share of $2.00 on revenue of $13.63 billion, thanks in part to its “busiest” travel period ever in the last two weeks of December helping offset “unpredictable headwinds.” Analysts polled by anticipated income of $1.70 a share on revenue of $13.55 billion.

An easing in aircraft fuel expenses during the three months ended on Dec. 31 also pushed down cost per average seat mile, a measure of efficiency, by 0.1% compared to the corresponding period last year.

But United said it expects a first-quarter adjusted loss of between $0.35 and $0.85 due largely to the grounding of the 737 Max 9 following a mid-air cabin panel blowout on a model of the jet operated by Alaska Airlines earlier this month. Wall Street projections had seen the loss at $0.18 per share,

In its first quarter, United — the airline with the largest amount of 737 Max 9’s in its fleet — estimates that the issues will lead to an approximately 3 percentage-point uptick in incremental adjusted expenses per available seat mile as well.

However, analysts at Morgan Stanley noted that, despite the problems presented by the 737 Max 9, United’s guidance for full-year adjusted diluted earnings per share of $9.00 to $11.00 is “comfortably above consensus” and “very encouraging.”

Yasin Ebrahim contributed to this report.

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