CHICAGO - Royal Caribbean's passengers spent more than expected during the fourth quarter and the cruise company carefully controlled its expenses, helping it more than double its fourth-quarter profit compared with a year earlier.
And a month after launching the world's largest cruise ship, the 6,300-passenger Oasis of the Seas, executives said Thursday they expect business to keep improving in 2010.
"It was a painful year, but we still managed to suffer less revenue declines than most comparable industries, despite the double whammy of the economy and swine flu," Chairman and CEO Richard D. Fain said of 2009 on a conference call with investors. "And (2010) is looking much stronger than many thought possible just a short time ago."
For the three months that ended Dec. 31, the owner of Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Pullmantur earned $3.4 million, or 2 cents per share. That's more than double what it earned in traditionally slow quarter a year earlier - $1.5 million, or a penny per share.
Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.'s fourth-quarter profit also soundly beat its forecasts and those of Wall Street analysts, who expected it to report a loss.
Cruise net costs - the amount of money it costs to operate a cruise excluding certain expenses - fell nearly 9 percent during the period.
Revenue was nearly steady at $1.45 billion for the quarter, down from $1.46 billion last year.
Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected Royal Caribbean to lose 6 cents per share on revenue of $1.44 billion. Those estimates typically exclude one-time items, and the company didn't record any in the fourth quarter.
Full-year results were less rosy, however: The company's annual profit plummeted almost 72 percent to $162.4 million, or 75 cents per share. That's down from a 2008 profit of $573.7 million, or $2.68 per share. Full-year revenue fell 10 percent to $5.89 billion from $6.53 billion.