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Big Losses at AMR, Northwest

High fuel costs and tough competition dog the major carriers.
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, parent of American Airlines, and

Northwest Airlines


reported deep fourth-quarter losses as high energy costs and fierce price competition overwhelmed profits.

Dallas-based AMR had a loss of $387 million, or $2.40 a share, vs. a loss of $111 million, or 70 cents a share, in the same quarter in 2003. Operating revenue rose 3.4% to $4.54 billion. Analysts expected a loss of $3.18 a share on revenue of $4.56 billion, according to Thomson First Call.

"As expected, the fourth quarter proved to be a disappointing end to a very difficult year," said AMR in a statement. "Results for the fourth quarter of 2004 reflect the economic woes that plagued the airline industry throughout 2004 -- in particular, high fuel prices and a tough revenue environment."

Fourth-quarter items included a $146 million gain on the sale of American's interest in Orbitz. During the quarter, the company paid 67% more per gallon of fuel than it did a year ago, adding $477 million in costs.

AMR said it anticipates a loss during the first quarter of 2005.

Minneapolis-based Northwest posted a net loss of $420 million, or $4.84 a share including items, vs. a profit of $363 million, or $3.60 a share. Excluding items, the carrier lost $359 million, or $4.14 a share, vs. a net loss of $129 million, or $1.49 a share, in the year-ago period. Revenue rose 6.4% to $2.75 billion. Analysts expected a loss of $3.97 a share on revenue of $2.84 billion.

"Stubbornly high fuel costs, revenue pressures from competitors' pricing actions and labor cost savings realized by some of our major competitors make it imperative that Northwest achieve labor restructuring quickly in order to return to profitability."

Operating expenses in the quarter increased 15.4% vs. a year ago, to $3.0 billion. Fuel averaged 139 cents per gallon, up 68.9% more than a year ago, adding $252 million to operating costs.

Unusual items in 2004's fourth quarter included a $115 million gain from the sale of Northwest's remaining shares of Orbitz. The year-ago quarter included $492 million in items.

Northwest shares fell 15 cents, or 1.8%, at $8.26. AMR's shed 1 cent to $8.86.