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Shares of United Continental fell nearly 6 percent Wednesday after the airline gave third-quarter guidance that implied it may miss Wall Street's earnings estimates for the period.
The airline said it expects revenue per available seat mile (RASM) — a key metric for airlines — to range between a 1 percent decline and 1 percent growth.
"[W]e believe few were braced for a -1% to +1% outcome, which (obviously) once again raises the specter of declining RASM," JPMorgan analyst Jamie Baker said in a note Tuesday.
"But even allowing for potential conservatism, the more likely outcome in our minds is a modest softening of consensus earnings expectations," Baker said.
United said it sees its pretax margins of 12.5 to 14.5 percent for the third quarter, which implies earnings per share of $2.73 to $3.13. Wall Street analysts were expecting a bottom-line guidance of $3.16.
Baker said the range's midpoint of $2.93 "falls below all but one of the seventeen published forecasts – though United does have a tendency to establish initial guidance that it has recently been prone to exceed."
The airline released its third-quarter guidance Tuesday afternoon along with its second-quarter results. United posted earnings per share of $2.75 on revenue of $10 billion, topping Wall Street expectations.