WRAPUP 1-United, Southwest Q4 results top estimates, shares rise
* United adjusted loss 58 cts/shr vs view loss 61 cents
* Southwest adjusted profit 9 cents vs estimate 8 cents
Jan 24 (Reuters) - United Continental Holdings Inc recorded a bigger quarterly loss and Southwest Airlines Co posted lower profit on Thursday, but results topped expectations and the carriers said current bookings were solid.
United Continental shares jumped 3 percent, while Southwest moved up 2 percent.
Both airlines indicated booking trends were solid. Southwest said its bookings for the remainder of the current quarter were "strong" so far, while United said the percentage of available seats that were sold for the next six weeks was running higher for domestic, international and regional segments.
In the fourth quarter, higher costs were a factor for both United Continental and Southwest. United, which turned off fliers as it made changes after its 2010 merger that led to computer glitches, also recorded big charges.
"While we didn't meet our revenue goals in 2012, we have addressed the integration issues that drove our underperformance," Jim Compton, vice chairman and chief revenue officer, said in a statement.
United, the world's largest carrier, said its quarterly net loss widened to $620 million, or $1.87 a share, from $138 million, or 42 cents a share, a year earlier.
It took charges of $430 million in the latest quarter, with much of that tied to paying off pension obligations and costs for systems integration and training as it moved to unify operations after the merger.
Excluding items, United's quarterly loss was 58 cents a share, better than the 61 cent loss expected by analysts on average, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Revenue fell 2.5 percent to $8.7 billion. Operating costs rose 3.2 percent. While fuel expenses edged down 0.3 percent, salaries and maintenance materials were higher by 4 percent and 9.2 percent, respectively.
"These large mergers tend to create a lot of headaches," said Matthew Jacob, an airline analyst with ITG Investment. "Maybe the efficiencies will take a little bit more time to develop as they try to combine these two large companies and operate them together."
SOUTHWEST PROFIT FALLS BUT TOPS ESTIMATE
At Southwest, the traditional low-fare leader that acquired AirTran in 2011, net income fell 49 percent to $78 million, or 11 cents a share, in the fourth quarter, from $152 million, or 20 cents, a year earlier.
Excluding items, profit was 9 cents a share, compared with the average analyst estimate of 8 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Revenue rose 1.6 percent to $4.17 billion. Operating expenses rose 3 percent, with wages and salaries up 4.5 percent. Fuel and oil rose 0.7 percent.
"Costs continue to increase but what we see at Southwest is a strong ability, especially over the past few quarters, to keep costs controlled," said Logan Purk, an analyst with Edward Jones.
United Continental shares were up nearly 3 percent to $25.70 and Southwest gained 2 percent to $11.59.