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Royal Caribbean Beats, Outlook Disappoints

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Royal Caribbean said that while it does not forecast fuel prices its cost calculations are based on current at-the-pump prices net of hedging impacts. Based on those prices it included $168 million and $705 million of fuel expense in its first quarter 2011 and full year 2011 guidance, respectively.

LaFleur commented that while Royal Caribbean's top-line results came in below his estimates, expenses were better than expected.

He called Royal Caribbean's earnings "a mixed bag."

"Without disruptions, yields were in line. Cost controls were solid, but some expenses may have leaked into [the first quarter]. The [fourth-quarter] EPS appears to have gotten a boost from unusual swings in other income and interest income as well, raising quality of earnings questions. The below-Street [first-quarter] would be problematic on the surface, however the above-Street view for the full-year may temper somewhat," the analyst noted.

LaFleur said he expected volatility in Royal Caribbean's share price "as these forces play out," but said he expects that "an early sell-off tempers itself by session's end."

On Dec. 21 cruise ship peer Carnival reported a 28.5% jump in year-over-year profits reflecting an improving economy and lower fuel costs.

Carnival, which recently announced a 150% spike to its quarterly cash dividend , forecast 2011 earnings per share in a range of $2.90 to $3.10. Analysts' consensus call was for EPS of $2.92. Carnival's fiscal first quarter earnings were forecast in a range of 15 cents to 19 cents per share, down from fiscal 2010 first quarter EPS of 22 cents.
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