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Jul 17, 2018

United boosts 2018 outlook as Q2 earnings beat

United Airlines

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United Continental Holdings Inc. (UAL.N) boosted its profit outlook for this year, bucking cuts by rivals and signaling that a strategic overhaul is helping it manage just fine through higher fuel bills.

Adjusted earnings will be as much as US$8.75 a share this year, 25 cents higher than the previous forecast, United said in a statement Tuesday as it reported earnings. Delta Air Lines Inc. (DAL.N) and American Airlines Group Inc. (AAL.O) have both lowered their profit projections, citing cost pressures from the rising price of jet fuel.

United’s rosier view suggests that it’s gaining financial traction from efforts to bolster flights at its hubs, improve the computer system for pricing airfares and install plusher business-class seats. The No. 3 U.S. airline also slightly trimmed its plans for expanding flights and seats this year, taking a step back from a target that spooked investors when it was announced in January.

“We believe that we are starting to see an inflection point for customer perception of United (especially relative to Delta),” Darryl Genovesi, an analyst at UBS Group AG, said in a note to clients before the earnings report.

The airline advanced 2.4 per cent to UA$74.35 after the close of regular trading in New York. United gained 7.7 per cent this year through Tuesday, the only increase on a Standard & Poor’s index of five major U.S. carriers, which slid 14 per cent.

Earnings Beat

United’s second-quarter adjusted income rose to UA$3.23 a share, topping the $3.06 average of analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Sales climbed 7.7 per cent to US$10.8 billion.

Revenue for each seat flown a mile increased 3 percent in the second quarter, the Chicago-based carrier said, at the upper end of its prediction of between 1 per cent and 3 per cent. The figure, known as unit revenue, is closely followed by investors as a proxy for an airline’s pricing power.

Last week, Delta lowered its 2018 profit range by US$1 per share because of higher fuel bills. That followed a cut by American in April. American further spooked investors on July 11 with a financial outlook that suggested airfares are weaker than expected this summer.