Continental Airline Beats

Continental Airlines ( CAL) Thursday reported a smaller-than-expected loss in the fourth quarter, as the carrier's cost-control efforts took some of the sting out of higher fuel prices and industry overcapacity.

The Houston-based carrier reported a net loss of $206 million, or $3.12 a share, vs. a profit of $47 million, or 61 cents a share, a year ago. Excluding items, Continental lost $174 million, or $2.62 a share. Revenue rose 6.7% to $2.2 billion.

Analysts expected the airline to lose $178.4 million, or $3.29 a share, on revenue of $2.31 billion.

Continental said business was "adversely impacted by weak domestic yields and record-breaking fuel prices."

Revenue passenger miles, or RPMs, a key industry metric, rose 11.1% while capacity increased 7.7%. The airline's load factor rose 2.4 points to 77.3%. Revenue per available seat mile, or RASM, however, fell 0.9%.

"Our cost-control efforts continue to be a major focus for us," the airline said. "We have now realized over $900 million of our $1.1 billion effort, including achieving approximately $300 million of savings from our best business partners and suppliers."

Continental ended the quarter with approximately $1.46 billion in unrestricted cash and short-term investments.

Shares rose 12 cents, or 1.3%, to $9.57 in premarket trading.

Rival Delta Air Lines ( DAL) Thursday reported a larger-than-expected loss in the fourth quarter amid a sweeping turnaround plan.

Both Northwest Airlines ( NWAC) and AMR ( AMR), the parent of American Airlines, Wednesday also reported large losses for the quarter.

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