United Airlines announces full-year 2015 profit

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CHICAGO, IL – United Airlines (UAL) today reported its fourth-quarter and full-year 2015 financial results.

• UAL reported full-year net income of $4.5 billion, or $11.88 per diluted share, excluding special items. Including special items, UAL reported full-year net income of $7.3 billion. These results include a nonrecurring $3.1 billion non-cash benefit associated with the reversal of the company’s income tax valuation allowance.

• UAL reported fourth-quarter net income of $934 million, or $2.54 per diluted share, excluding special items. Including special items, UAL reported fourth-quarter net income of $823 million.

• Today, UAL announced it reached an agreement to acquire 40 new Boeing 737-700 aircraft which will enter the fleet beginning in mid-2017, replacing a portion of the capacity currently operated by regional partners.

• Employees earned a record $698 million in profit sharing for full-year 2015.

“We improved our operational performance, continued to invest in our products and services and achieved record financial performance,” said Brett J. Hart, UAL’s acting chief executive officer. “We have great momentum as we head into 2016 and are committed to continuously earning the trust of our customers and employees. I’m proud of what we accomplished together, running a reliable airline and making the right investments to deliver shareholder value. We expect first-quarter pre-tax margin to be between 8 and 10 percent, excluding special items.”

Full-Year and Fourth-Quarter Revenue and Capacity

For the fourth quarter of 2015, total revenue was $9.0 billion, a decrease of 3.0 percent year-over-year. Fourth-quarter 2015 consolidated PRASM decreased 6.0 percent and consolidated yield decreased 7.2 percent compared to the fourth quarter of 2014. For the full-year 2015, consolidated PRASM declined 4.4 percent versus the prior year. The declines in PRASM and yield were driven largely by a strong U.S. dollar, lower surcharges, travel reductions from customers impacted by declining oil prices and softening domestic and international yields.

Passenger revenue for the fourth quarter and full year of 2015 and period-to-period comparisons of related statistics for UAL’s mainline and regional operations are included in the tables in the back of this document.

Full-Year and Fourth-Quarter Costs

Total operating expense excluding special charges was $7.8 billion in the fourth quarter, down 8.1 percent year-over-year. Including special charges, total operating expense was $8.0 billion, an 8.4 percent decrease year-over-year. The decrease was largely driven by lower oil prices. Consolidated unit cost (CASM), excluding special charges, third-party business expenses, fuel and profit sharing, was flat compared to the fourth quarter of 2014. Consolidated CASM including those items decreased 10 percent year-over-year. For the full year, consolidated CASM excluding special charges, third-party business expenses, fuel and profit sharing decreased 0.7 percent year-over-year. This strong cost performance was largely the result of improved efficiency as part of the company’s Project Quality and upgauging initiatives and better completion as a result of improved operational performance. Consolidated CASM including those items decreased 11.9 percent compared to full-year 2014.

Liquidity and Capital Allocation

In the fourth quarter, UAL generated $1.1 billion in operating cash flow and $324 million in free cash flow, and ended the quarter with $6.5 billion in unrestricted liquidity, including $1.35 billion of undrawn commitments under its revolving credit facility. During the fourth quarter, the company continued to invest in its business through gross capital expenditures of $791 million, excluding fully reimbursable projects, including approximately $300 million in aircraft-related deposits that shifted to the fourth quarter of 2015 from the first quarter of 2016.

The company spent $520 million toward its $3 billion share repurchase authorization in the fourth quarter. For the year, United repurchased approximately $1.2 billion worth of shares.

UAL earned a 21.0 percent return on invested capital for the 12 months ended Dec. 31, 2015.

Fleet Updates

Today, UAL announced it would take delivery of 40 new Boeing 737-700 aircraft, which will enter the fleet beginning in mid-2017. These aircraft will replace a portion of the capacity currently operated by the company’s regional partners, as the company expects to reduce by more than half the number of 50-seat aircraft in its fleet by 2019.
“Our customers have a preference for an improved travel experience, including first class seats, Economy Plus, and Wi-Fi. These aircraft are an efficient way to meet those needs while reducing 50-seat flying,” said Gerry Laderman, UAL’s acting chief financial officer.
For more information on UAL’s first-quarter 2016 guidance, please visit ir.united.com for the company’s investor update.

The company will provide further details on its full-year 2015 financial results on an investor conference call today at 9:30 a.m. CT. Participants in the call will include Oscar Munoz, president and CEO; Brett J. Hart, acting CEO; Gerry Laderman, acting chief financial officer; Jim Compton, vice chairman and chief revenue officer; and Greg Hart, executive vice president and chief operations officer.