Delta's 1Q profit rises on more traffic, lower fuel prices - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Delta's 1Q profit rises on more traffic, lower fuel prices

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DALLAS (AP) - Delta Air Lines Inc. said Wednesday that first-quarter profit more than tripled as passengers flew more and jet fuel prices fell from a year ago.

The results were slightly better than analysts expected, and the shares gained in trading before Wall Street's opening bell.

CEO Richard Anderson said it was Delta's best January-through-March quarter ever both financially and operationally.

The strong U.S. dollar and low oil prices are hurting ticket sales in some foreign markets, and Delta announced that it will reduce its international passenger-carrying capacity by 3 percent later this year. The biggest cuts will fall in service to Japan, Brazil, India, Africa and the Middle East. It will suspend winter service to Moscow. U.S. capacity will grow 2 percent.

Analysts are concerned that falling oil prices have tempted airlines to add too many new flights, which tends to depress fares. They worry that airlines could abandon their recent strategy of no or slow growth in capacity, which has helped boost fares and produce record profits.

Atlanta-based Delta, the nation's third-biggest airline company behind American and United, reported first-quarter net income of $746 million, or 90 cents per share, up from $213 million, or 25 cents per share, in the same period last year.

The results were hurt, however, by Delta's strategy of hedging against fuel price spikes. That helps when oil prices rise, but hedging contracts lose money when energy prices fall as they did starting last summer. Delta took a first-quarter write-down of $372 million on its hedging contracts on top of the $1.2 billion that it took in the previous quarter.

Excluding those write-downs and other one-time items, Delta said it would have earned 45 cents per share. That was a penny better than the average estimate of 10 analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research.

Revenue rose 5 percent to $9.39 billion, matching the Zacks forecast.

In trading about an hour before the opening bell, Delta shares were up 91 cents, or 2.1 percent, to $43.99. At Tuesday's closing price, they had lost 12 percent in 2015 compared with the 2 percent gain in the Standard & Poor's 500 index. 

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