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Delta Air Lines Posts Q4 Loss of $2.1 Billion, Sees 2021 Recovery

Delta CEO Ed Bastian said 2021 "will be a year of recovery and a turning point" for the U.S. carrier as the pandemic eases and travel restrictions are eased later in the spring.

Delta Air Lines Inc.  (DAL) - Get Delta Air Lines Inc. Report posted a wider-than-expected fourth quarter loss Thursday but forecast an industry turnaround this year as vaccine rollouts accelerate and international travel restrictions are lifted later in the spring.

Delta said its adjusted loss for the three months ending in December was pegged at $2.53 per share, down from a $1.70 per share profit over the same period last year and 3 cents deeper than the Street consensus forecast. Group revenues, Delta said, plunged 65.3% to $3.97 billion, just ahead of analysts' estimates of a $3.65 billion tally.

Delta said it expects a daily cash burn rate of around $10 million to $15 million over the first three months of the year, compared to a $12 million average over the fourth quarter, but expects to close out March with between $18 billion and $19 billion in overall liquidity. 

"Our December quarter results capped the toughest year in Delta's history. I want to thank the Delta people who have risen to the occasion, focusing on delivering results for all of our stakeholders by putting our customers at the center of our recovery," said Ed Bastian, Delta's chief executive officer. "While our challenges continue in 2021, I am optimistic this will be a year of recovery and a turning point that results in an even stronger Delta returning to revenue growth, profitability and free cash generation."  

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Delta shares were marked 4.5% higher in early trading immediately following the earnings release to change hands at $42.25 each, a move that would extend the stock's six-month gain to around 60%.

Bastian said his carrier's recovery, as well as that of the broader industry, is reliant on the pace of vaccine rollouts, and repeated his view that Delta could swing back into profit by the second half of the year.