United Airlines Holdings (NASDAQ: UAL) reported a 39% jump in earnings for the fourth quarter of 2019 helped by an increase in passenger traffic. The results exceeded analysts’ expectations.
Net income jumped by 39% to $641 million or $2.53 per share. Adjusted earnings grew by 11% to $2.67 per share. Revenue rose by 4% to $10.89 billion. Analysts had expected EPS of $2.65 on revenue of $10.88 billion for the fourth quarter.
The company reached its 2020 goal, which was first announced in January 2018, to achieve an adjusted EPS target of $11-13 a full year ahead of schedule. Adjusted EPS for the full year 2019 was $12.05, 32% higher than a year ago.
For the fourth quarter, passenger revenue increased by 3.9% to $9.93 billion and other operating revenue rose by 6.3% to $639 million while cargo revenue declined by 5.4% to $316 million. Region-wise, the company experienced strong single-digit growth of passenger revenue in Domestic, Atlantic, and Latin America while the Pacific region continued to hurt the results.
Revenue per available seat mile rose 0.8%, while cost per available seat mile dropped 1.3%. Revenue passenger miles moved up 2.9% to 58.63 billion and available seat miles rose 3.1% to 71.04 billion. The consolidated passenger load factor was down by 0.2 points as growth in the International was offset by declines in the Domestic load factor.
The company believes that with a four-quarter streak of expanding profit margins when all the results are in it expects full-year 2019 pre-tax margin growth of 2.6 points to be the highest amongst its largest competitors.
The company took delivery of 49 aircraft in 2019, including eight Boeing 787-10 aircraft. United Airlines signed agreements to buy 50 Airbus A321 XLR, 20 used Boeing 737-700 aircraft and 20 Embraer E175 aircraft operated by its regional partners.
Looking ahead into the first quarter of 2020, the company expects cargo and other revenue in the range of $825-925 million and fuel consumption of 1.03-1.05 billion gallons. Adjusted earnings are anticipated to be in the range of $0.75-1.25 per share for the first quarter and $11-13 per share for fiscal 2020. Adjusted capital expenditures are predicted to be about $7 billion for fiscal 2020.