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Carnival posts Q1 loss, sharply cuts full-year outlook, mostly on Concordia

Carnival posts Q1 loss, sharply cuts full-year outlook, mostly on Concordia
Carnival Corp. & plc reported a first quarter loss of $139m, or 18 cents per share, and sharply cut its earnings forecast for the full year to $1.40 to $1.70 per share, down from $2.55 to $2.85, largely because of the impact of Costa Concordia. The year-ago profit was 19 cents per share.

Carnival’s Q1 results include a recoverable of $515m (€384m), which offset the write off of the net carrying value of Costa Concordia as the ship has been deemed a constructive total loss. The results also reflect Concordia incident expenses of $29m, including a $10m insurance deductible related to third party personal injury liabilities.

And the results have a non-cash write down for Iberocruceros’ goodwill and trademark assets of $173m (22 cents per share) and net unrealized gains on fuel derivatives of $21m.

Revenue increased to $3.6bn from $3.4bn.

Carnival said cumulative advance bookings, excluding Costa, for the remainder of 2012 are approximately 3 occupancy points behind the prior year with prices slightly higher than last year’s levels (constant dollars). Since Costa Concordia’s capsize in mid-January through Feb. 26, fleetwide booking volumes, excluding Costa, have shown improving trends but are still running high single digits behind the prior year at slightly lower prices.

There has been less impact on the company’s North American brands than European brands. Booking volumes for Costa during the same period are running significantly behind the prior year at lower prices, however Costa has curtailed virtually all of its marketing.

Carnival vice chairman Howard Frank told analysts Costa bookings after the capsize were 80% to 90% lower year over year. In the last three weeks, that narrowed to 40% to 50% lower. Since marketing is suspended, that is encouraging, Frank said.

Costa is expected to have a $100m loss in 2012, a swing of $500m from its previous estimate.

Frank said booking patterns for Costa are projected to normalize in about a year. Already Spain and France are starting to recover, while Italy and Germany remain major challenges.

Plus, Costa will have three fewer ships without Concordia and Costa Allegra and after the earlier sale of Costa Marina.

Carnival chairman and ceo Micky Arison said the company is ‘resilient and we will continue to work through this challenging period. We have every confidence that we will restore consumer faith in the Costa brand and the excellent reputation Costa’s management team has built for the organization which has a deep-rooted Italian heritage spanning more than 60 years.’

Carnival expects to carry nearly 10m passengers on its global fleet this year and Arison said the long-term fundamentals of the business remain strong.

In a ‘first read’ note, Wells Fargo Securities’ Tim Conder called it a ‘messy quarter as expected’ but said he was pleasantly surprised by the fundamentals, particularly higher on-board spending.

The downside was not as bad as feared, agreed analyst Robin Farley of UBS Investment Research. On a positive note, she said, yields for Carnival brands apart from Costa look flat year over year, with North American brands showing modest yield growth and European brands showing slightly lower yields.

For North American brands, the weakest itineraries have been in Europe, a trend that emerged last year with sovereign debt issues and rising air cots. The Caribbean and Alaska are doing fine, and Carnival Cruise Lines is currently performing stronger than the premium brands, Frank said, partly due to the premium brands higher exposure in Europe.

Of European brands, apart from Costa, Iberocruceros and AIDA Cruises have been most impacted by economic issues, although trends have recently improved in Germany. The UK market is holding up well, Frank said.

The company decided to write down Iberocruceros since it has slowed growth plans for the brand in light of Spain’s troubled economy and continued high unemployment.

In the last 12 months, Carnival reduced Iberocruceros capacity (transferring one ship to Costa as Costa Voyager) and competitor Pullmantur has also cut capacity. It wasn’t realistic to continue projecting growth at this point, Arison said, although Carnival still believes in the long-term future of the Spanish cruise market.

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