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Carnival sails past expectations, nearly doubles Q1 profit

Higher than expected net yields pushed Carnival Corp. & plc to nearly doubling its first quarter profit, and the company raised the midpoint of its December full-year guidance by a nickel a share on stronger bookings at higher prices.

Adjusted net income was $301m, or 39 cents per share, higher than Wall Street's 32-cent forecast, and Q1 2015's $159m, or 20 cents per share. US GAAP net income was $142m, or 18 cents per share, including unrealized losses on fuel derivatives and other net charges of $159m. US GAAP net income a year ago was $49m, or 6 cents per share.

Revenues rose to $3.7bn, up from $3.5bn.

'Our company is off to a strong start,' Carnival Corp. & plc president and ceo Arnold Donald said.

He cited a 'particularly robust' performance in the Caribbean, where Carnival had 47% of Q1 capacity. China, too, delivered 'strong profits' on a 60% capacity increase, and the shift of berths to China created scarcity in other markets, helping pricing elsewhere.

Pricing on both sides of the Atlantic improved from the prior year.

Net revenue yields were up 5.7% in constant currency, better than the company's December guidance of up 3.5% to 4.5%. Net cruise costs excluding fuel per available lower berth day increased 1.6% in constant currency and were lower than December guidance of up 2.5% to 3.5%, due to the timing of expenses between quarters.

Changes in fuel prices (including fuel derivatives), net of changes in currency exchange rates, increased earnings by 3 cents per share.

Carnival raised its full-year EPS guidance to $3.20 to $3.40, compared to December guidance of $3.10 to $3.40. The Wall Street consensus forecast is $3.36.

The company said cumulative advance bookings for the remainder of 2016 are well ahead of the prior year at slightly higher prices. Since January, booking volumes for the remainder of the year are running ahead of last year's historically high levels at higher prices.

For North American brands, Caribbean occupancy is well ahead of the prior year at 'nicely higher' rates, while Alaska occupancy is in line with 2015, also at 'nicely higher' prices. 2015 was a record year for Alaska, cfo David Bernstein noted, and 2016 is shaping up to be even better.

For the seasonal Europe program, occupancy is 'nicely ahead' of the prior year at lower prices due to geopolitical issues in the Mediterranean, as anticipated in the company's earlier guidance.

For Europe, Asia and Australia brands, Europe occupancy is ahead of the prior year at slightly higher rates. Australia and Asia are in line with prior guidance, with China pricing and occupancy behind given the company's 60% capacity spike. Yet Bernstein said China should be seen as a unit growth opportunity, and Carnival is achieving returns there that exceed its average elsewhere.

'The lower levels of inventory remaining for sale for the balance of the year, particularly for our peak summer period, positions our brands well for continued revenue yield growth and builds confidence in our full year earnings forecast,' Donald said.

On a constant currency basis, the company continues to expect full year 2016 net revenue yields to increase approximately 3% and net cruise costs excluding fuel per ALBD to be up approximately 2%.

Carnival projects Q2 adjusted profit in the range of 34 cents to 38 cents per share, up from 25 cents a year ago. That compares to the consensus estimate of 37 cents.