JetBlue shares tumble 10% as fuel costs surge

  • JetBlue posted a net loss but higher adjusted second-quarter EPS than expected by analysts.
  • Airline took a $319 million impairment charge from its E190 fleet that it is retiring.
  • JetBlue is the fifth-largest U.S. carrier by passengers carried.
A JetBlue Airways Corp. plane prepares for landing at LaGuardia Airport in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, April 18, 2017.
Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images
A JetBlue Airways Corp. plane prepares for landing at LaGuardia Airport in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, April 18, 2017.

Shares of JetBlue Airways Corp. dropped more than 10 percent Tuesday after the fifth-largest U.S. airline struggled to convince investors it could still grow and keep a lid on costs.

The New York-based airline said it will trim growth in the second half of 2018, a move other airlines are taking as fuel costs have surged. JetBlue said its fuel costs, its largest expense, increased more than 50 percent in the three months ended in June compared with the year earlier period, the company said in releasing its second-quarter earnings Tuesday.

JetBlue lost $120 million during the quarter, attributing the results to a $319 million impairment charge it took on its Embraer E190 fleet, which it's retiring to buy new A220 jets from an Airbus-Bombardier joint venture.

After backing out that charge, the company reported adjusted earnings per share of 38 cents, down from 62 cents a share during the same quarter last year. Wall Street analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected JetBlue to report 36 cents a share in adjusted profit.

The airline posted revenue of $1.93 billion, up 5 percent from a year ago but slightly below analysts' expectations.

The carrier is in the middle of a cost-cutting program that aims to reduce annual expenses by up to $300 million by 2020. That includes corporate restructuring and other measures, including driving travelers to self-service booking tools. Last week, JetBlue announced an unspecified number of layoffs and buyouts, mostly affecting its Long Island City headquarters.

JetBlue scaled back its plans to expand capacity, measured by the number of seats and how many miles they are flown every year. It said it plans to grow capacity in 2018 by 7.5 percent from the prior year instead of as much as 8.5 percent forecasted in April.

J.P. Morgan Chase senior airline analyst Jamie Baker questioned the airline's growth plan.

"What's the point of growth in the first place?" he asked, pointing to the airline's stock decline. "I would totally understand it if you were still in the start-up phase, but can you just explain again how you justify continued growth of any level?"

CEO Robin Hayes said the airline is "not wedded" to growing for the sake of doing so but said it is picking markets where it has performed well.

JetBlue's shares are down more than 20 percent so far this year, compared with a more than 5 percent climb in the S&P 500. Airline stocks have largely lagged the broader market. One exception is United, which is up nearly 19 percent so far this year, as the company said it expects to earn higher profits despite an aggressive growth strategy that spooked investors earlier this year.