American Beats, Cites Strong Prospects

DALLAS ( TheStreet) -- American Airlines parent AMR ( AMR) beat fourth-quarter estimates, benefiting from a recovering economy, higher fares and a stronger business travel market.

In prepared comments, the carrier took an unusually optimistic view of the current year, despite noting that higher fuel costs will provide a "significant headwind."
American Airlines

Excluding special items, AMR lost $69 million or 21 cents a share. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had estimated a loss of 32 cents. Revenues rose 10.3% to $5.6 billion, in line with estimates. In the same quarter a year earlier, excluding items, AMR lost $415 million or $1.25 a share.

Including a $28 million non-cash charge to write down the value of route authorities in Columbia after an open skies agreement, AMR lost $97 million or 29 cents a share. In the same quarter a year earlier, including items, the carrier lost $344 million or $1.03 a share.

"2010 has been a year of significant improvement for American Airlines," said CEO Gerard Arpey, in a prepared statement. "We have set the stage for success -- and our efforts are starting to produce meaningful results." During 2010, the carrier gained anti-trust immunity with partners across both the Atlantic and Pacific.

During the fourth quarter, mainline passenger revenue per available seat mile increased by 7.1%, while total revenue improved by $523 million. Meanwhile, other revenues from sources including baggage charges and the sale of miles, grew 2.9% to $599 million. For the full year, total revenue totaled $2.4 billion.

On the cost side, mainline cost per available seat mile, excluding fuel, decreased by 3%, reflecting cost control efforts and a modest capacity increase. The company paid $171 million more for fuel in the fourth quarter of 2010 than it would have paid at prevailing prices from the prior-year period. American is 50% hedged for the current quarter.

The carrier anticipates that mainline capacity will increase by 3.6% in the current year, including a 1% domestic increase and a 7.7% international increase. Consolidated capacity will increase by 4.3%.

For the full year 2010, AMR recorded a net loss of $471 million, or $1.41 a share, compared to a loss of $1.5 billion, or $4.99 a share in 2009. Excluding items, the company lost $389 million, or $1.17 a share in 2010, compared to a loss of $1.4 billion, or $4.63 a share, in 2009.

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.

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