Higher Ticket Prices Boost Carnival Q4 Earnings

Carnival Corp. (CCL), the world's largest cruise operator, said Friday fiscal fourth-quarter earnings jumped 20 percent on the continued rise of ticket prices and onboard revenues. But its shares fell as it said earnings for 2006 would be lower than analysts expected.

For the three months ended Nov. 30, the Miami-based company reported net income of $353 million, or 43 cents a share, compared to $294 million, or 36 cents a share, a year earlier. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial expected 41 cents a share, on average.

Carnival shares fell 93 cents, or 1.7 percent, to $53.91 on the New York Stock Exchange. The stock has traded in a 52-week range of $45.78 to $58.98.

The company operates 79 ships across 12 brands, including Carnival Cruise Lines, Princess Cruises and Cunard Line. Another 16 ships are on order, including four the company this week asked Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri to build.

Revenues climbed 14.4 percent to $2.57 billion from $2.24 billion. Apart from rising ticket prices and onboard revenues, a 9.1 percent increase in shipboard capacity drove growth.

Net revenue yields, a key gauge of profitability that measures net income earned from passengers per day from cruise tickets and onboard sales, rose 5.9 percent in the quarter.

For the full fiscal year, Carnival reported earnings of $2.26 billion, or $2.70 a share, on revenues of $11.09 billion, compared to $1.85 billion, or $2.24 a share, on revenues of $9.73 billion in fiscal 2004. Analysts expected $2.70 a share, according to Thomson Financial.

Arison said advance bookings and prices for trips to be taken next year are also up.

Carnival expects 2006 earnings per share will be between $3.00 and $3.10, but that is below the $3.14 a share expected by analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial.

Net revenue yields rose 6.5 percent for the year, but are expected to fall to more normal levels of 1 percent to 3 percent next year. Yields have increased rapidly over the past two years as the company recovered from the tourism industry's falloff after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.