Carnival Corporation executives expressed confidence in today’s Q1 earnings call, but posted the company’s first ever Q1 GAAP loss and revised its full-year earnings again – to a mid-point of $1.55 per share, down from a range of $2.07 to $2.34 in January and $2.55 to $2.85 in December.
The revised earnings forecast reflects an expected $500 million swing at Costa Crociere to a loss of $100 million this year, due to the Concordia and Allegra incidents, weakness in European markets, and higher fuel prices.
Howard Frank, vice chairman and COO, said that the Concordia incident has had a profound impact. While North American booking patterns have been improving since mid-January, the European impact has been greater and the markets will require more time to recover, he said.
Costa has also curtailed its marketing since January, with bookings initially being off year-over-year by 80 to 90 percent. Still, with no marketing efforts, bookings are now running 40 to 50 percent behind last year. AIDA Cruises and IberoCruceros have also been experiencing lower booking volumes, while the UK has been holding up better. Frank added that it may take Costa more than a year to recover.
Chairman and CEO Micky Arison said that Costa will start marketing as soon as they are comfortable doing so to bring occupancy back up.
Laying up ships in the short term was considered, according to David Bernstein, executive vice president and CFO, but was discarded as being too disruptive in nature.
Fleetwide for 2012, occupancy is lower at slightly higher prices.
Arison noted that according to consumer surveys the company has conducted, people are not holding off booking because of safety concerns, but because they are waiting for prices to come down.
Yields have been rebounding in the Caribbean as the American economy has been improving,
In terms of operating costs, Carnival expects them to be flat compared to 2011, offsetting costs of $45 million and $34 million, respectively, related to the Concordia and Allegra, as the operating companies have found new cost saving opportunities, according to Bernstein.
The write-down of the goodwill and trademark value of Iberocruceros was related to the company’s Spanish business model, which was based on growth, but has instead seen a decline.
Frank said it may take longer for the Spanish economy to return to a reasonable level of strength.
Meanwhile, Costa will be short three ships going into 2013, the Concordia, which has been declared a total loss and will be salvaged over the next 10 to 12 months; the Allegra, for which the repairs were deemed too expensive, and continues to be for sale, although at a lower price; and the Marina, which was sold and left the fleet late last year.
Going forward, Arison reiterated the company’s slower building pace, which is intended to allow it to raise prices and thus yields, and this time also added that incremental growth will be less than the new ships, because of older ships also being transferred out of their respective fleets, or sold.