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United Airlines Drops After Wider-Than-Estimated Loss

United Airlines traded lower Tuesday after the carrier posted a wider-than-expected first-quarter loss on a two-thirds drop in revenue.

Shares of United Airlines  (UAL) - Get United Airlines Holdings, Inc. Report declined on Tuesday after the Chicago carrier reported a wider-than-expected first-quarter net loss on a two-thirds drop in revenue.

The loss was $1.36 billion, or $4.29 a share, against a deficit of $1.7 billion, or $6.86, in the year-earlier quarter. Shares outstanding rose 27% to 316.6 million.Revenue declined to $3.22 billion from $7.98 billion. 

A survey of analysts by FactSet produced consensus estimates of a loss of $4.24 a share on revenue of $3.26 billion.

The revenue drop reflected higher fuel costs and low demand for air travel due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Shares of United Airlines at last check dropped 9.26% to $49.90.

"We've shifted our focus to the next milestone on the horizon and now see a clear path to profitability,” United Airlines Chief Executive Scott Kirby said in a statement.

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“We're encouraged by the strong evidence of pent-up demand for air travel and our continued ability to nimbly match it, which is why we're as confident as ever that we'll hit our goal to exceed 2019 adjusted Ebitda margins in 2023, if not sooner."

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Multiple media reports noted that Kirby said United operated on a positive core cash-flow basis in March for the first time since the pandemic began.

Executives at the airline claimed that the positive adjusted-cash-flow metric promised that new international routes to countries that allow vaccinated travelers will help the airline recover.

An analyst at Cowen & Co. cited in a Bloomberg report said that investors may view Kirby's remarks as a sign that travel demand recovery may take longer than expected.

"While the comments were likely made to show where break-even can occur during the recovery, investors may be interpreting them as an expectation that it will take longer than anticipated for business and international travel to recover fully,” analyst Helane Becker said in a note to clients.

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