updated 7/18/2007 11:42:31 AM ET 2007-07-18T15:42:31

Delta Air Lines Inc., the nation's third-largest carrier, cited a 5.5 percent gain in sales as it reported Wednesday that it swung to a profit in the second quarter, which saw it emerge from bankruptcy after shaving billions of dollars in costs.

The Atlanta-based company's results beat Wall Street expectations when one-time items are excluded.

Also Wednesday, outgoing Chief Executive Gerald Grinstein told investors and analysts during a conference call that Delta's board will likely choose his successor by the end of the summer, at which point he will retire. He had initially said he planned to leave soon after Delta emerged from Chapter 11, but later extended that timeline.

He said during the call the board is taking a deliberative approach to finding his replacement "given the magnitude of this decision."

The top internal candidates for CEO are Chief Financial Officer Ed Bastian and Chief Operating Officer James Whitehurst. No external candidates have been mentioned publicly.

For the three months ending June 30, Delta said it recorded net income of $1.77 billion, or $4.49 a share, compared to a loss of $2.21 billion in the same period a year earlier. The corresponding per-share figure for the year-ago loss was not provided in Delta's balance sheet.

Excluding reorganization and related one-time items, Delta said it had a profit of $274 million, or 70 cents a share, in the second quarter. On a comparable basis, analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial were expecting a profit of 59 cents a share.

The reorganization and related one-time items Delta accounted for in the second quarter of this year stemmed from $1.5 billion of income primarily due to the discharge of claims and liabilities in connection with its bankruptcy proceedings and the adoption of fresh-start reporting.

Revenue in the April-June quarter rose to $5 billion, compared to $4.74 billion recorded in the same period a year earlier.

At the end of the quarter, Delta had $3.7 billion in cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments, of which $3.4 billion was unrestricted. Delta also has an additional $1 billion in unrestricted liquidity available under its undrawn revolving credit facility.

Delta recorded roughly $40 million in cash gains on fuel hedge contracts settled during the quarter.

For the first six months of the year, Delta said its net income was $1.64 billion, compared to a loss of $4.28 billion for the same period a year earlier. Per-share figures were not given. Six-month revenue rose to $9.24 billion, compared to revenue of $8.54 billion in the same period a year earlier.

Grinstein said he was pleased by the results.

"We are focused on the future," Grinstein said.

Delta entered Chapter 11 on Sept. 14, 2005. The company emerged on April 30.

In bankruptcy, Delta shed billions in costs and restructured the carrier's operations. It also survived a hostile takeover bid by Tempe, Ariz.-based US Airways Group Inc.

After exiting bankruptcy, Delta unveiled plans for a new paint job for its planes, featuring the company's three-dimensional red logo flying across a blue background on the tail of aircraft.

Besides finding a new CEO, Delta's board also must decide whether to sell or spin off regional feeder carrier Comair. The airline has not provided a specific timetable for that decision.

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