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Delta Air tops profit estimate; says may cut wide-body jet orders
April 12, 2017 / 12:15 PM / 9 months ago

Delta Air tops profit estimate; says may cut wide-body jet orders

(Reuters) - Delta Air Lines Inc (DAL.N) reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit on Wednesday and said it may consider reducing its orders for wide-body aircraft as the industry struggles with excess capacity.

Passengers check in at a counter of Delta Air Lines in Mexico City, Mexico, August 8, 2016. REUTERS/Ginnette Riquelme/File Photo

The No. 2 U.S. airline by passenger traffic had $17.64 billion worth of pending orders for wide-body aircraft with France’s Airbus Group SE (AIR.PA) at current list prices, according to the planemaker’s order book.

“We continue to see excess capacity in wide-bodies as we look to the future for the industry as a whole,” Delta Chief Executive Edward Bastian said on a conference call with analysts.

“We’re in discussion with our OEM partners on what that means. And you could anticipate some reductions ... broadly over the next several years.”

The carrier had no pending orders for wide-body jets with Boeing Co (BA.N), the recent order book of the world’s biggest planemaker showed.

Delta forecast second-quarter passenger unit revenue, a closely watched revenue measure, to increase 1-3 percent, citing improving demand and average fares.

The company also said March marked the first month of positive passenger unit revenue since November 2015, and it expected the measure to remain positive throughout the rest of the year.

“We will keep our full-year capacity growth capped at 1 percent to support this unit revenue momentum and the company’s return to margin expansion,” Delta President Glen Hauenstein said in a statement.

The company’s shares closed down 0.5 pct at $45.05, after rising as much as much as 4.2 percent earlier in the day.

Delta said it canceled about 4,000 flights earlier this month due to severe weather in Atlanta, and that it would reduce its second-quarter pre-tax income by $125 million.

    However, the company forecast second-quarter operating margin in a range of 17-19 percent, which was higher than the expectations of some analysts.

    “Investors may view the company’s (second-quarter passenger unit revenue) guidance as ‘aggressive’ given recent guidance missteps, but the guidance was still much better than expectations especially when considered the storm impact,” Cowen & Co analyst Helane Becker said.

    Becker was expecting Delta’s operating margins in a range of 15.5-17.5 percent.

    Delta cut its first-quarter passenger unit revenue forecast twice this year, citing slower-than-expected improvement in average fare prices for flights booked at the last minute.

    On an adjusted basis, the company earned 77 cents per share, beating the average analyst estimate of 75 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

    Reporting by Ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel and Anil D'Silva

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