(Royal Caribbean earnings report updated with analyst commentary.)
Royal Caribbean booked fourth-quarter profits of $42.7 million, or 20 cents per share, a huge improvement over year-earlier earnings of $3.4 million, or 2 cents per share. Results easily beat analysts' consensus call for a profit of $26.9 million, or 13 cents per share.Revenue came in 10.3% higher year-over-year at $1.6 billion, but analysts had been looking for the top-line figure to come in at $1.64 billion. The cruise ship operator forecast 2011 earnings-per-share to come in between $3.25 and $3.45, and between 10 and 15 cents for the current quarter. That outlook disappointed Wall Street, which had expected Royal Caribbean to book 2011 EPS of $3.31 and first-quarter EPS of 26 cents. Investors bid Royal Caribbean shares 4.6% lower on Thursday amid much heavier-than-normal trading. Nearly 11 million shares changed hands with two hours left in the trading session, compared with their average daily volume of just 2.3 million. Hudson Securities analyst Robert LaFleur maintained a buy rating and 12-month price target of $58 following the report. He noted that Royal Caribbean, unlike rival Carnival (CCL), hedges its fuel exposure.
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