Delta Air Lines shares flew to a record high on Thursday after the company reported better-than-expected quarterly earnings, with passenger revenue increasing in every region.
For the fourth quarter, Delta reported net income of $572 million, or 80 cents per share, a decline of 8% percent from the year-earlier period that reflected, in part, a combined hit of $60 million from December’s power outage at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport and Winter Storm Benji.
On an adjusted basis, the second-largest U.S. airline earned 96 cents per share on revenue of $10.25 billion, beating analysts’ estimates of 88 cents a share on revenue of $10.13 billion.
Passenger unit revenue, a key metric for airlines, rose 4.2%, with 7.4% growth in trans-Atlantic travel leading the way. Overall domestic passenger revenue increased 7.0% to $6.19 billion.
In trading Thursday, Delta stock climbed 4.4% to a record $58.34.
“We enter 2018 with significant momentum and every entity delivering positive passenger unit revenue for the first time in five years, driven by a robust demand environment and improving business fares,” Glen Hauenstein, Delta’s president, said in a news release.
“We expect to deliver total unit revenue growth of 2.5 to 4.5 percent in the March quarter and leverage our unrivaled domestic network, international partnerships, and solid pipeline of commercial initiatives to deliver similar performance each quarter throughout 2018,” he added.
The fourth-quarter performance was boosted by higher business fares and a busy holiday travel season, and Delta is expecting the new tax law to fuel demand from business travelers.
“We’re very excited about the potential for increased business demand with the tax cuts,” Hauenstein said in an earnings call. “We haven’t seen that materialize yet, but we expect that to materialize in the first quarter.”
Partly due to its own expected tax savings, Delta raised its full-year profit outlook to between $6.35 and $6.70 per share, well ahead of Wall Street estimates. During an investor day last month, the airline forecast earnings per share for 2018 of $5.35 to $5.70.