UAL Reports $1.8 Billion Loss

The parent of United Airlines noted, however, that the losses were based on its creditors' claims, and that since it expects to settle them for a '...
Craig SchneiderOctober 31, 2005

UAL Corp., the parent company of United Airlines, reported a record loss of $1.8 billion for the third quarter, due largely to restructuring costs related to its efforts to emerge from Chapter 11.

In a statement, UAL referred to its massive loss from non-cash aircraft-rejection charges as “common” for companies progressing through Chapter 11, especially as restructuring nears completion. The company also noted that the losses were based on its creditors’ claims, and that since it expects to settle them for a ”minor fraction” of the amount recorded, it should record a large gain when it exits Chapter 11 next year.

UAL added that it had quarterly operating earnings of $165 million, despite higher fuel expenses, and operating revenues of $4.7 billion, 8.1 percent higher than the year-ago period. Excluding the restructuring costs, UAL reported that it would have announced a profit of $68 million.

The $1.8 billion, which amounted to $15.25 per share, was UAL’s 21st consecutive quarterly loss, according to the Associated Press. This quarter’s loss was also the company’s largest, the AP added, exceeding even the $1.47 billion for the fourth quarter of 2002, when UAL filed for bankruptcy.

UAL — whose restructuring is “largely complete,” according to chief financial officer Jake Brace — is reportedly forecasting a profit in 2006 for the first time since 2000. The AP observed, however, that this forecast assumes that crude-oil prices will average $50 a barrel — more than $10 below the current price.

“I think they’re in good shape,” Ray Neidl, an analyst at Calyon Securities, told Reuters. “They might have to get their unit cost structure down a bit more.” For the quarter, however, the AP noted that UAL’s lease-restructuring costs were much larger than those of its peers. Northwest Airlines Corp. posted a $475 million loss; American Airlines parent AMR Corp. posted a $153 million loss; and the parents of Southwest Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and Continental Airlines all turned profits. Delta Air Lines Inc. and US Airways Group Inc. are scheduled to release results on November 9.

In a related story, last Friday, six weeks after filing for Chapter 11, Delta announced it would discontinue Song, the low-fare airline it launched two years ago. Song will be folded into Delta’s domestic operations starting in May.