NCLH Q1 profit surges above expectations, guidance raised

Higher pricing and on-board spending lifted Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings' first quarter profit well above the company and Wall Street's expectations, and NCLH raised its full-year guidance. Shares were up 3% before market open.

Adjusted net income was $181.8m, or 83 cents per share, 38% above the 60 cents EPS ($137.8m) in the prior year, and a dime higher than expectations.

GAAP EPS grew 20%, to 54 cents ($118.2m), up from 45 cents ($103.2m).

Revenue rises on Bliss, organic pricing, on-board spending

Total revenue increased to $1.4bn, 8.5% higher than the $1.3bn in Q1 2018, driven mainly by the addition of Norwegian Bliss, along with strong growth in organic pricing across all core markets and robust on-board spending.

Net yield was up 4.1% in constant currency. Adjusted net cruise cost excluding fuel per capacity day increased 3.6% in constant currency and 3% as reported.

An income tax benefit of $33.8m compared to an expense of $2.5m in 2018. Last year NCLH implemented tax restructuring strategies that created the ability to utilize the net operating loss carryforwards of Prestige, previously provided as a full valuation allowance. As a result, NCLH recorded a tax benefit of $35.7m in connection with the reversal of substantially all of the valuation allowance.

Full year EPS $5.40 - $5.50

The company expects to generate record full year earnings in 2019 and increased its net yield growth and adjusted EPS outlook above the high end of the previous guidance range. Adjusted EPS is now expected in the range of $5.40 to $5.50, compared to the prior $5.20 to $5.30 forecast and the $5.30 consensus. This is despite an impact of approximately 10 cents from higher fuel prices and unfavorable foreign exchange rates.

Full year net yield growth guidance on a constant currency basis increased 50 basis points from the prior guidance, to up 3.5% to 4.5%.

Adjusted Q2 EPS is forecast as approximately $1.33, higher than Wall Street's $1.27 expectation.

Robust demand

'We were pleased to enter the year in a record booked position which, when combined with a solid wave season and record results for the first quarter, paved the way for an increase to our full year adjusted EPS outlook that now exceeds the high end of our previous guidance range, and would result in yet another year of double-digit adjusted EPS growth,' said Frank Del Rio, president and CEO of NCLH.

'Our modest in-year capacity growth of less than 3%, coupled with continued robust global demand for our portfolio of brands, allowed us to focus on driving pricing as evidenced by our first quarter topline beat, our record wave season pricing and higher net yield growth expectations for the remainder of the year.'

EVP and CFO Mark Kempa added that the strong demand environment experienced for some time is continuing throughout 2019 and into 2020.

'We remain confident in our outlook to achieve our "Full Speed Ahead 2020" targets,' Kempa said, 'and have opportunistically executed $200 million in share repurchases in the quarter, bringing our total shareholder capital returns to $600 million over the last four quarters.'

Posted 09 May 2019

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Anne Kalosh

Editor, Seatrade Cruise News & Senior Associate Editor Seatrade Cruise Review