Royal Caribbean shares at 15-month high on outlook

NEW YORK -- Shares of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. hit a 15-month high Thursday after it reported third-quarter earnings that topped Wall Street's expectations. The world's second-largest cruise operator also raised its outlook for this year and issued an encouraging forecast for 2013.

The Miami company earned $367.8 million, or $1.68 per share, compared with $399 million, or $1.82 per share, a year earlier.

Revenue slipped to $2.23 billion from $2.32 billion in the third quarter of 2011.

Analysts expected a profit of $1.46 per share on revenue of $2.22 billion, according to FactSet.

Royal Caribbean said it saw strong last-minute bookings and the third quarter. Even bookings in Europe, where demand had been the weakest, were better than expected, it said. Ongoing cost-cutting also helped results.

Bookings are virtually back to normal after they fell off sharply following the sinking of the Costa Concordia in January, which killed 32 people. The ship was operated by Carnival, but the incident affected the entire industry. Paired with a slowing global economy, the industry has continued to struggle this year.

As the impact of the Costa Concordia continues to wane, Royal Caribbean expects passenger yields to be flat to up one percent in the current quarter, including the impact of a stronger dollar.

For the full-year, Royal Caribbean increased its guidance for earnings per share by 15 cents to a range of $1.85 to $1.95. That new outlook is driven by better-than-expected revenue and lower costs, the company said.

Analysts currently expect $1.78 per share.

Looking ahead to 2013, the company said it's "encouraged by trends so far," noting occupancy and rates are slightly higher right now than at this time last year.

The stock rose 10.1 percent in morning trading, or $3.14 to $34.28. It earlier hit $34.50, the highest it has been since late July of last year.