United Airlines posted better-than-expected earnings and revenue for the fourth quarter and gave very bullish forecasts for the current quarter and full year results.
The Chicago-based airline had adjusted income of $811 million, or $2.46 a share in the quarter. Analysts surveyed by Refinitiv had forecast earnings per share of $2.10 in the quarter. The profit gave United its first profitable year since the start of the pandemic.
Revenue reached $12.4 billion, topping not only forecasts of $12.2 billion, but a 14% increase from revenue of $10.9 billion in the fourth quarter of 2019, ahead of the pandemic. Its revenue grew even though its capacity, as measured by available seats, adjusted for miles traveled, was still nearly 10% below the fourth quarter of 2019. But the amount passenger paid for each mile flow rose by 25%.
United said it expects to adjusted earnings per share of 50 cents to $1 in the first quarter, typically the weakest period of the year, and full year EPS of $10 to $12, allowing it to quadruple the 2022 EPS of $2.52 and putting the it within reach of the $12.05 per share it earned in 2019. All those projections from United beat analysts’ consensus forecasts of 46 cents a share for the first quarter and EPS of $6.92 for the full year.
Despite the strong results and guidance shares of United were little changed in early trading Wednesday.