P/> MIRAMAR, FLA ( TheStreet) -- Shares in Spirit (SAVE - Get Report) were rising Tuesday after the rapidly expanding low-fare carrier beat analysts' earnings estimates.
Spirit said it earned $19.5 million, or 27 cents a share, in the fourth quarter; analysts had estimated 24 cents. Revenue rose 20% to $328 million; analysts estimated $330 million. Capacity grew by 28%.
Spirit shares were trading early Tuesday at $20.35, up 97 cents, or about 5%, easily leading airline shares.
"The company currently has no on-balance sheet debt and produced a pretax return on invested capital of 26.5% for the year ended Dec. 31, 2012, the highest among publicly-traded U.S. airlines," wrote Deutsche Bank analyst Michael Linenberg, in a note following the release.
"Hurricane Sandy had a massive negative impact on SAVE's results," wrote Avondale Partners analyst Fred Lawrence, in a note. "On an adjusted basis, adding related revenue and pretax income back to numbers, SAVE would have reported fourth quarter EPS of roughly 47 cent -- easily exceeding the pre-Sandy consensus estimate of 38 cents."
Results included an estimated $25 million in lost revenue due to Hurricane Sandy. The fourth-quarter operating margin was 9.7%; Spirit said it would have been $15.8 million were it not for Sandy. Revenue per available seat mile declined 6.6%, reflecting the negative impact of Sandy and a 5.3% increase in average stage length.
Non-ticket revenue per passenger flight segment grew 9.4% to $52.73, while average ticket revenue per passenger flight segment fell 8.6% to $71.30.
During the quarter, cost per available seat mile excluding fuel and special items declined by 2.5%.
For the full year, excluding special items, Spirit earned $104 million and posted a return on invested capital of 26.5%. The company ended the year with $417 million in cash.
-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte.
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