Carnival Drives Strong Q3 by Reducing Operating Costs

Carnival Corporation reported strong non-GAAP net income of $1.4 billion, or $1.75 per share, on revenues of $4.9 billion for its third quarter ended Aug. 31, 2015, compared to non-GAAP income of $1.2 billion, or $1.56 per share, on revenues of $4.9 billion for the same quarter last year. U.S. GAAP income, which included net unrealized gains on fuel derivates, was $1.2 billion, or $1.56 per share, compared to $1.2 billion or $1.60 per share last year.

This year, ticket revenue for the quarter was reported to be $3.6 billion, compared to $3.7 billion for the same period last year, and onboard revenue was $1.1 billion, slightly up from last year. Total revenues were down slightly from last year.

On a per passenger day basis, total gross revenues this year were $222.43 down from $230.50 last year. Net revenues were $200.04 per passenger day this year, compared to $212.17 last year.

But despite these numbers being slightly down or in line with last year, Carnival was able to drive earnings up by reducing costs in nearly every operating cost category, particularly fuel. Operating costs per passenger day were $113.43 this year, down from $128.61 last year. With other costs being line, this allowed Carnival to post operating income per passenger day of $68.78 this year, up from $60.20 last year.

Carnival brands carried more passengers and posted more cruise days this year than for the same period last year.

Looking forward, Carnival CEO and President Arnold Donald said on an earnings call today that the company is committed to continue leveraging its scale to reduce costs, including fuel consumption, and mentioned price exercises across brands, as well as the implementation of a common yield management platform.

Fuel consumption will also be reduced by new itineraries and Donald mentioned their new port in the Dominican Republic, Amber Cove, which will facilitate the most fuel efficient Eastern and Western seven-day Caribbean itineraries.

Donald also referred to the new ships recently ordered for the AIDA and Costa brands, describing them as the most efficient ships and also the largest with a passenger capacity of up to 6,600.

According to David Bernstein, CFO and executive vice president, bookings for the first half of 2016 are very strong, with a significantly lengthened booking curve, despite having 3 percent more capacity to sell.

Commenting on the specific markets, he said North American bookings are nicely ahead at lower constant dollar prices and for Europe, Australia and Asia, bookings are in line with last year at lower constant dollar prices, driven by what he called continuing economic challenges.

Bernstein also noted to increase yield is not so much about raising prices as about reducing discounting. And this has been the company’s policy for the past couple of years – maintaining price integrity and disallowing close in and deep discounting.

Carnival will also have somewhat less (capacity) exposure in Europe next year with the Costa Fortuna going to China. Bernstein noted the geopolitical and economic challenges in Europe in addition to the refugee situation.

Donald reiterated his goal of achieving double digit return on capital invested in the next three to four years (from today).

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