Carnival Corporation & plc (NYSE/LSE: CCL; NYSE: CUK) reported net income of $152 million, or $0.19 diluted EPS, on revenues of $3.4 billion for its first quarter ended February 28, 2011. Net income for the first quarter 2010 was $175 million, or $0.22 diluted EPS, on revenues of $3.2 billion.  The first quarter 2010 included the favorable impact of $0.10 per share from unusual items. 

Carnival Corporation & plc Chairman and CEO Micky Arison indicated that earnings in the first quarter 2011 were at the high end of the company’s December guidance due to lower than expected unit costs which offset higher than expected fuel prices.    

Commenting on the first quarter, Arison said, “Net revenue yields increased 2 percent (constant dollars) driven by a significant improvement in ticket prices for our European brands. We remained focused on managing costs and reducing fuel consumption. All of which more than offset rising fuel prices during the quarter.”

Key metrics for the first quarter 2011 compared to the prior year were as follows:

• On a constant dollar basis net revenue yields (net revenue per available lower berth day) increased 2.0 percent for 1Q 2011, which was in line with December guidance. Gross revenue yields increased 2.4 percent in current dollars.

• Net cruise costs, excluding fuel and the 1Q 2010 $44 million gain on the sale of P&O Cruises (UK)’s Artemis, per available lower berth day (“ALBD”) were in line with the prior year in constant dollars, and were better than the December guidance of flat to up 1 percent.  Gross cruise costs per ALBD in current dollars increased 4.4 percent. 

• Fuel prices increased 9 percent to $543 per metric ton for 1Q 2011 from $497 per metric ton in 1Q 2010 and were higher than the December guidance of $526 per metric ton.

• During the first quarter, the company announced an increase in its regular quarterly dividend to $0.25 per share from $0.10 per share, signifying continuing confidence in the company’s future earnings potential. 

2011 Outlook  

Since the start of the calendar year, booking volumes and prices for the remaining three quarters are running higher than the prior year. At this point in time, cumulative advance bookings for the remainder of the year are at higher prices with slightly lower occupancies versus last year. 

Arison noted, “Despite the uncertain world events that have unfolded during our peak booking period, we have experienced a solid wave season.  Ticket prices for the peak summer season remain particularly strong. The convenience and affordability of a cruise vacation continues to gain recognition as consumers discover the unrivaled experience cruising offers. As a result, long-term fundamentals for our business remain attractive in an environment where consumers increasingly value the importance of taking their holidays.”  

The company expects full year net revenue yields, on a constant dollar basis, to increase 2.5 to 3.5 percent compared to 3 to 4 percent in its December guidance. As previously announced, the change in yield guidance of approximately $44 million, or $0.05 per share, results from the itinerary changes in the Middle East and North Africa necessitated by the political unrest in that region. The company expects net revenue yields on a current dollar basis to increase 4.5 to 5.5 percent for the full year 2011 compared to 2010.

The company expects net cruise costs, excluding fuel, per ALBD for the full year 2011 to be flat to up slightly on a constant dollar basis compared to flat in its December guidance due to increasing inflation expectations. Slightly lower expectations in other cost categories are expected to offset the slightly higher net cruise costs guidance.

As previously announced, fuel prices have increased significantly since we provided December guidance. Based on current spot prices for fuel, fuel costs are now expected to increase $355 million for the full year 2011 compared to December guidance, costing an additional $0.45 per share.  However, the weakening of the U.S. dollar since December guidance is expected to benefit earnings by $75 million, or $0.09 per share.

Taking all the above factors into consideration, the company now forecasts full year 2011 fully diluted earnings per share to be in the range of $2.55 to $2.65, compared to its December guidance range of $2.90 to $3.10 and full year 2010 of $2.47. This guidance is slightly better than the update provided on March 11, due to the change in spot prices for fuel and currency.

Second Quarter 2011 

Second quarter constant dollar net revenue yields are expected to increase in the 1.5 to 2.5 percent range (4.5 to 5.5 percent on a current dollar basis) compared to the prior year. Net cruise costs excluding fuel per ALBD for the second quarter are expected to be 2.0 to 3.0 percent higher on a constant dollar basis. Fuel costs for the second quarter are expected to increase $140 million compared to the prior year, costing an additional $0.18 per share.

Based on current fuel prices and currency exchange rates, the company expects fully diluted earnings for the second quarter 2011 to be in the range of $0.20 to $0.24 per share, down from $0.32 per share in 2010 due to the drag on earnings from the higher fuel prices.

During the second quarter two new ships will debut in Europe, AIDA Cruises’ 2,194-passenger AIDAsol and Carnival Cruise Lines’ 3,690-passenger Carnival Magic, furthering the company’s strategy to expand its global presence.