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Continental Airlines Quarterly Profit Rises, Beats View

Continental Airlines posted better-than-expected quarterly earnings Thursday due to higher fares and more international flights.

The strong earnings by Continental are the latest sign that the US airline industry's recovery from a long slump remains intact despite soaring fuel prices and a slowing US economy.

The No. 4 US carrier by passenger traffic said third-quarter net profit rose 2 percent to $241 million from $237 million a year earlier when airline earnings were weakened by a security scare.

Diluted per-share earnings, however, fell to $2.15 a share from $2.17 a share because of a higher share count this year.

Excluding a $12 million charge for a pilot pension plan settlement, Continental said it earned $253 million, or $2.25 per share. Wall Street analysts, on average, were expecting the company to post earnings of $2.13 per share, according to Reuters Estimates.

Operating revenue rose 8.6 percent to $3.82 billion, boosted by a 22 percent jump in trans-Atlantic passenger revenue. Domestic US passenger revenue for Continental's mainline fleet rose 7.3 percent, while regional passenger revenue fell 4.5 percent.

The average Reuters revenue estimate was $3.79 billion.

Continental's shares have risen about 13 percent over the last 52 weeks.