American Airlines Hits Some Turbulence in Q4

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American Airlines Group Inc. (NASDAQ: AAL) released its fourth-quarter financial results before the markets opened on Thursday. The company said that it had $0.95 in earnings per share (EPS) and $10.60 billion in revenue, versus consensus estimates from Thomson Reuters that called for $0.92 in EPS and revenue of $10.56 billion. In the same period of last year, the airline said it had EPS of $0.92 and $9.79 billion in revenue.

During the fourth quarter, cost per available seat mile (CASM) was 14.71 cents, up 7.1% compared to last year. Excluding fuel and special items, total fourth-quarter CASM was 11.25 cents, up 3.8% year over year.

At the same time, spending on fuel increased over 23% and labor expenses grew 7%. This resulted in operating expenses growing faster than revenues.

Looking ahead, the company expects its first-quarter 2018 total revenue per available seat mile to increase roughly 2.0% to 4.0% year over year, reflecting continued improvement in demand for both business and leisure travel. American Airlines also expects its first-quarter 2018 pretax margin excluding special items to be between 2.0% and 4.0%.

Additionally, the company expects its 2018 diluted earnings per share excluding net special items to be between $5.50 and $6.50. The consensus estimates are $5.32 in EPS and $44.47 billion in revenue for the full year.

Doug Parker, board chair and chief executive, commented:

2017 was a remarkable year for American Airlines. We made enormous progress as a company as we continued to make significant investments in our team members, product and operation, and those investments are beginning to pay off. Our operation continues to deliver record-setting performance for the company, and the credit goes to our team members who are simply the best in the business.

Shares of American Airlines traded down about 3.5% at $52.88 on Thursday, with a consensus analyst price target of $63.61 and a 52-week range of $39.21 to $59.08.