RCL: Upbeat Earnings Call

In a very upbeat Q2 earnings call today, Royal Caribbean Cruises (RCL) reported net income of $24.7 million, or $0.11 per share, on revenues of $1.9 billion, compared to a net loss of $3.7 million, or $0.02 per share, on revenues of $1.8 billion for Q2 of last year.

The Q2 results for this year includes a cost of $0.05 per share for the May fire incident on the Grandeur of the Seas.

Commenting on Q2, Royal Caribbean Chairman and CEO Richard Fain said the results exceeded the forecasts and that he expects the full year to be marginally better than the guidance from $2.20 to $2.30.

Fain pointed out that the Q2 results were achieved despite what he called a deluge of negative publicity and the recently more competitive pricing environment.

He said that bookings for the balance of the year and for 2014 are ahead of where the company was last year and at better pricing.

Noting a number of initiatives to drive profitability, Fain mentioned Pullmantur’s new office in Latin America and efforts to reduce the costs of international operations, and said benefits are expected to accelerate over time.

Fain revealed for the first time that a bubble system has been installed on a Celebrity Cruises’ ship, helping to save fuel.

New ships are driving earnings, according to Fain, who said that ships built since 2006 generate 25 percent more revenue per berth than older ships, which also cost 25 percent more to operate. New ships generate three-and-a-half times the cash flow of older ships, he added.

Thus, Royal Caribbean will look at opportunities to dispose of older, less efficient vessels.

Jason Liberty, CFO, said that profitability initiatives had contributed $0.05 to the earnings per share for Q2, and that onboard revenue was up across all categories, including gaming, specialty restaurants and shore excursions.

Brian Rice, vice chairman, commented that although profitable, the Chinese market had produced lower earnings than expected because of the continued feud between China and Japan, forcing the Royal Caribbean International brand to drop all Japanese ports on cruises from China. However, the line’s China deployment is only 3 percent of its total capacity.

Asia is the only product in the company’s portfolio that is expected to show lower yield year-over-year, according to Rice.

Adam Goldstein, CEO and president of the Royal Caribbean brand, noted the improvement in onboard spending driven by a wider offering of beverage packages, the reintroduction of art auctions and by taking the wedding program in house.

Goldstein said that Royal Caribbean will carry its 50 millionth passenger this month and will kick off a year-long celebration of its guests, crew and travel agents. He added that Royal Caribbean ranked only second to Disney in a recent customer satisfaction survey.

Speaking for the first time on the company’s earnings call, Michael Bayley, who was named CEO and president of Celebrity Cruises only a year ago, said that profitability initiatives for Celebrity are starting to show their impact.

At the core of the initiatives, he said, is what he called the line’s strong brand essence and targeting of upscale customers who can better value what the ships have to offer.

Bayley said that delivering an exceptional customer experience drives revenue, combined with strong cost management, leading to the line being on track to delivering its best results ever in 2013.

Pointing to the revitalizations of ships, Bayley noted the addition of more staterooms, balconies, restaurants, entertainment venues, retail space and expanded casinos, which contribute to drive higher ticket prices and more onboard revenue.

Goldstein also commented on yesterday’s senate hearing, saying that there had been “a very interesting dialogue around passenger protection.” As for Senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller’s announcement of legislation aimed to close so-called tax loophole, Goldstein said it was “extraordinarily premature at this point, even to understand what he (the Senator) has in mind.”

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