Covid-19 distribution could accelerate United’s recovery

United Airlines Holdings Inc. late Wednesday posted its fourth straight quarter of losses, saying it expects its capacity to be down at least 51% in the current quarter.

United UAL, -6.15% said it lost $1.9 billion, or $6.39 a share, in the fourth quarter, contrasting with gains of $2.53 a share in the year-ago quarter.

Operating revenue fell to $3.41 billion, compared with $10.9 billion a year ago. Analysts polled by FactSet expected United to report a GAAP loss of $6.13 a share on sales of $3.42 billion. United shares fell 0.8% in the extended session Wednesday after ending the regular trading day up 1%.

United said it expects first quarter 2021 total operating revenue to be down 65% to 70%. An “accelerated” distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine could lead to faster improvement, it said, but the company is not counting on this potential improvement in its first quarter revenue outlook.

United Airlines realized $ 1.4 billion of savings in 2020

It was the airline’s fourth consecutive quarterly loss as pandemic-related travel restrictions and concerns about air travel and virus transmission cut down on its business, including the more lucrative business travel and transatlantic flights.
2021 will be “a transition year that’s focused on preparing for a recovery,” the company said in a statement.

“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, United has raised over $26 billion in liquidity and made important progress in reducing core cash burn” and also has identified $1.4 billion of annual cost savings and has a path to achieve at least $2 billion in structural reductions moving forward, it said.

The stock has lost about 50% in the past 12 months, contrasting with gains around 16% for the S&P 500 index SPX, -0.07%

©MarketWatch_Claudia Assis

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