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Easy Beat for Continental

First-quarter profits are 11 cents better than expected.
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Strong international growth enabled


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to report a first-quarter profit for the first time since 2001.

The carrier said that excluding items, it would have earned $26 million, or 25 cents a share. Revenue was $2.9 billion, up 7.9%.

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Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial had expected 14 cents on revenue of $3.19 billion. A year earlier, excluding special items, the carrier lost $46 million.

Once all items were factored in, net income was $22 million, or 21 cents a share.

Continental said it benefited from strong revenue growth, continued cost discipline and a slight decrease in fuel prices, which overcame the impact of severe winter storms that reduced revenue by more than $10 million.

"While the domestic system suffers from yield pressure, the international system is performing superbly, and rewards us for our decade-long focus on international expansion," said President Jeff Smisek, in a prepared statement.

Mainline revenue per available seat mile grew 5.3% over the same quarter a year earlier, while consolidated RASM rose by 3.4%. Although domestic RASM declined by 0.7%, international segments showed double-digit increases, led by a 14.4% increase in Latin American markets.

Load factor was 79.1%, a first-quarter record. Yield increased 4.1%. On the expense side, cost per available seat mile increased by 1.3 %, holding fuel rates constant and excluding charges.