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Q3 sales better than forecast but Carnival shares dip on Q4 outlook

Carnival shares fell more than 2% in early trading Tuesday after the company beat its third quarter profit forecast on higher sales volume and pricing but guided to a lower than expected Q4 profit.

Higher occupancy, ticket pricing and on-board spending pushed Carnival's non-GAAP Q3 profit to $1.75 per share, above the consensus expectation of $1.62, and the company raised guidance for the full year but its Q4 outlook is lower than Wall Street expectations.

Non-GAAP net income was $1.4bn, compared to $1.2bn, or $1.58 per share, a year ago.

US GAAP net income, which included unrealized losses on fuel derivatives of $137m, was $1.2bn, or $1.56 EPS.

Revenues slipped to $4.88bn, from $4.95bn.

Carnival Corp. & plc president and ceo Arnold Donald said the Q3 non-GAAP performance was the strongest of any quarter on record with earnings 17 cents per share higher than the prior year despite a slight drag from the net impact of fuel prices and currency. Non-GAAP earnings for the quarter were also 17 cents higher than the mid-point of prior guidance.

Net revenue yields improved 5% in constant currency, benefiting, Donald said, from 'strong demand which led to higher occupancy levels, increased ticket prices and increased on-board spending.'

Net cruise costs excluding fuel per available lower berth day increased 1% in constant dollars, better than June guidance of up 2% to 3% due to the timing of certain expenses.

Fuel prices fell 33% to $439 per metric ton, from $650 per metric ton a year ago and were less than June guidance of $492. Fuel consumption per available lower berth day decreased 2% year over year.

Based on the strength in Q3 net revenue yields and current booking trends, Carnival increased its expectations for full year 2015 net revenue yields, to up 4%, compared to its previous guidance of up 3% to 4% in constant currency.

The company continues to expect full year 2015 net cruise costs excluding fuel per ALBD to be up approximately 3.5% in constant currency or up approximately 3% on a constant dollar basis.

Full year 2015 non-GAAP EPS guidance is now in the range of $2.56 to $2.60, better than both the June guidance range of $2.35 to $2.50 and analyst expectations of $2.53, as well as 2014 non-GAAP EPS of $1.93.

Q4 constant currency net revenue yields are expected to be up approximately 3% year over year, or up about 1% in constant dollars, while net cruise costs excluding fuel per ALBD are are expected to be higher by approximately 3% on a constant currency basis compared to the prior year, or up about 2% in constant dollars.

Q4 non-GAAP earnings are forecast in the range of 36 cents to 40 cents per share, lower than the Wall Street consensus expectation of 45 cents and above Q4 2014's 27 cents.

Carnival reported that during the last quarter, fleetwide booking volumes for the first half of 2016 were running nearly 20% higher than the prior year relative to a capacity increase of less than 3%, at lower constant dollar prices. At this time, cumulative advance bookings for the first half of 2016 are 'well ahead' of last year at lower constant dollar prices.

'Looking forward to 2016, we have driven a significant lengthening of the booking curve and have less inventory remaining for the first half of 2016 than at this time last year, which bodes well for continued year-over-year revenue yield improvement,' Donald said. 'Although we already have a solid base of business for next year, we are working hard to maintain the momentum through our ongoing initiatives to create additional demand.'