CHICAGO ( TheStreet) -- United ( UAL) beat estimates as Pacific unit revenue rose by 26%.

Excluding items, the carrier reported net income of $160 million, or 44 cents a share. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had estimated earnings of 23 cents. Revenue rose 15% to $8.4 billion, in line with estimates.

The results represented a $347 million improvement from the same quarter a year earlier, when results for both Continental and United are combined. "We made a fourth-quarter profit, excluding special items, in a typically weak quarter," said CEO Jeff Smisek, in a prepared statement.

Including items, primarily $485 million in merger-related costs, United lost $325 million, or $1.01 a share. In reporting fourth-quarter results, United made comparisons to pro-forma results that consolidated results from Continental following the Oct. 1 merger.

During the quarter, passenger revenue per available seat mile rose 11.5% from the same period a year earlier. The biggest gains came in the Pacific, where PRASM rose by 26.4%. Overall, international PRASM rose 15.8%. Revenue passenger miles rose 4% on a capacity gain of 3.8%. On the cost side, consolidated cost per available seat mile excluding special items and fuel increased 1%.

United said it anticipates that its two carriers will lead network peers in on-time performance for 2010, measuring arrivals within 14 minutes of schedule. United's on-time arrival rate was 85.2% while Continental's rate was 81.4%.

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte

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