Alaska Air Group, Inc. (ALK - Free Report) delivered first-quarter 2019 adjusted earnings per share of 17 cents, beating the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 13 cents. Moreover, the bottom line improved on a year-over-year basis.
Revenues came in at $1,876 million, above the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $1,872.97 million. The top line also rose year over year. Passenger revenues, accounting for a bulk (91.5%) of the top line, were up 2% on a year-over-year basis.
Airline traffic, measured in revenue passenger miles, inched up 0.4% year over year in the reported quarter. Capacity or available seat miles expanded 0.2%. Load factor (percentage of seats occupied by passengers) improved 20 basis points to 80.3% as traffic growth outpaced capacity expansion in the reported quarter.
Total revenue per available seat mile (RASM: a key measure of unit revenues) increased 2.2% year over year to 12.10 cents in the quarter under discussion. Meanwhile, yield rose 1.5% to 13.78 cents.
Operating Expenses & Income
In the quarter under review, total operating expenses were up 3% year over year to $1,851 million. Operating income declined 14% from the prior-year quarter to $25 million. Fuel price (economic) was $2.13 per gallon, down 0.5%.
Consolidated cost per available seat mile — excluding fuel and special items — nudged up 2.8% to 9.06 cents.
Liquidity & Buybacks
At the end of the reported quarter, this Zacks Rank #4 (Sell) company had $1,436 million in cash and marketable securities compared with $1,236 million at the end of 2018.
Alaska Air Group exited the quarter with long-term debt of $1,664 million compared with $1,617 million at the end of 2018. Adjusted debt-to-capitalization ratio was 47%, flat compared to that in December 2018. The carrier repurchased 214,891 shares worth approximately $13 million during the first quarter of 2019.
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Q2 & 2019 Outlook
The company anticipates capacity to rise approximately 1% in the second quarter of 2019. Additionally, RASM is estimated to increase in the 2-5% range in the period. Non-fuel unit costs (excluding special items) are projected to increase approximately 5% year over year. Meanwhile, economic fuel cost is forecast to be flat year over year at $2.13 per gallon in the current quarter.
For the full year, capacity is estimated to expand approximately 2% while non-fuel unit costs (excluding special items) are expected to rise nearly 2.1%. Also, capital expenditures are anticipated to be $750 million in the ongoing year. Meanwhile, effective tax rate is predicted to be approximately 26% in the year.
Investors interested in the broader Transportation sector are keenly awaiting first-quarter earnings reports from key players, namely Expeditors International of Washington, Inc. (EXPD - Free Report) , C.H. Robinson Worldwide, Inc. (CHRW - Free Report) and Air Lease Corporation (AL - Free Report) . While C.H. Robinson will report first-quarter earnings on Apr 30, Expeditors and Air Lease will announce the same on May 7 and May 9, respectively.
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