Updated from 9:21 a.m. EST

United Airlines' parent UAL ( UAUA) said it lost $61 million in the fourth quarter, reflecting a seasonal slowdown and winter storms in its hubs.

The second-largest airline lost 55 cents a share, while revenue was $4.6 billion, up 5%. Analysts polled by Thomson Financial had expected a loss of 35 cents a share on $4.7 billion in revenue.

In December, three severe winter storms struck Chicago and Denver, United's two largest hubs, forcing about 3,900 cancellations. As a result, consolidated capacity growth slowed slightly to 2.7%, and passenger revenue was reduced by about $40 million.

Revenue reflected solid demand "but decelerating year-over-year growth in a seasonally weaker quarter," United said. Mainline passenger revenue per available seat mile grew by 3.4%, led by a 15.2% increase in Latin American and a 10.7% gain across the Atlantic. Load factor declined by 0.2 points to 79.9%.

United also said that it recorded a loss of $13 million for hedge contracts that settled during the quarter. Additionally, noncash items, including $95 million for revised Mileage Plus accounting, had a negative impact of $59 million, the airline said.

On the cost side, mainline cost per available seat mile, excluding fuel and special items, fell by 0.7%.

Looking forward, CFO Jake Brace said the airline views 2007 optimistically after generating nearly $300 million in cash during its weakest quarter. With lower fuel prices, minimal capacity increases and solid demand, "we see the fundamentals in the industry as very solid," Brace said.

He said United not only has $5 billion, which is "more cash than is optimal," but also has no immediate obligations, such as pension payments or aircraft purchase costs. United will pay down debt by $1 billion next month, he said. For tax purposes, the carrier may also benefit from an $8 billion net operating loss carryforward. Unlike American, United has no plans for a public offering.

For the full year, mainline passenger RASM increased by 9.1%. And for the 11 months since it emerged from bankruptcy, the company reported net income of $25 million. Excluding reorganization items, the results reflected an improvement of $423 million over the same period in 2005.

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