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Continental Air posts quarterly profit

Continental Airlines Inc. , the No. 5 U.S. airline, Tuesday reported a fourth-quarter profit, largely on gains from the sale of its stakes in two online reservation companies and as it kept costs in check and revenue edged up slightly.
/ Source: Reuters

Continental Airlines Inc. , the No. 5 U.S. airline, Tuesday reported a fourth-quarter profit, largely on gains from the sale of its stakes in two online reservation companies and as it kept costs in check and revenue edged up slightly.

The Houston-based carrier, the second major airline to report results for the last three months of 2003, said its profit amounted to $47 million, or 67 cents per share, compared with a net loss of $109 million, or $1.67 per share, a year earlier.

Continental’s results include an $85 million gain, primarily driven by the sale of its interests in online travel companies Hotwire and Orbitz.

Excluding those special items, the carrier posted a loss of 58 cents a share for the quarter. On that basis, analysts had expected Continental to post a loss of 84 cents a share, with loss estimates ranging from 47 cents to $1.15, according to Reuters Research, a unit of Reuters Group Plc.

Chief Executive Gordon Bethune said the company’s cost-cutting efforts have helped prepare it for a tough revenue environment in 2004.

“However, it’s going to be a struggle to break even this year with persistently high fuel prices,” he said in a statement.

Bethune, who last week announced he would retire earlier than planned at the end of this year, said in December that Continental was working to break even in 2004 as the industry tries to dig itself out of a huge financial hole.