Royal Caribbean Swings To Fourth-Quarter Profit

Royal Caribbean Cruises posted a fourth-quarter profit on Monday, reversing a year-earlier loss, helped by stronger prices and lower cruise costs.

The world's No. 2 cruise group behind Carnival posted net income of $46.6 million, or 22 cents
a share, compared with a loss of $3.6 million, or 2 cents a share, in the same period last year.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial were expecting earnings of 20 cents a share on sales of $1.16 billion.

Revenue rose 12% to $1.15 billion from $1.03 billion a year ago. Passenger ticket sales climbed 13% to $831.7 million, while onboard and other revenue gained 10% to $321.5 million.

Royal Caribbean, which operates 34 ships under its namesake and Celebrity Cruise brands, said its net cruise costs on a per available passenger-cruise-days basis fell 3.3% due to the timing of drydocking and marketing costs. Its net yields rose 3.3%, driven by strong cruise pricing.

"It is very gratifying to achieve such strong performance, especially in our traditionally softest quarter," said Richard D. Fain, chairman and CEO. "We are particularly pleased with the solid yield performance of our brands, and healthy earnings despite significantly higher fuel costs."

The cruise operator said its Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises divisions grew yields by 3.4% for the full year despite a less robust Caribbean pricing environment.

Looking ahead, Royal Caribbean said it expects first-quarter 2007 earnings a share to be in the range of 3 cents to 8 cents.