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Carnival fiscal 4Q net income tumbles 57 pct

MIAMI (AP) -- Cruise operator Carnival Corp. said Thursday that its fiscal fourth-quarter net income tumbled 57 percent, hurt by lower ticket prices and higher fuel costs.

Despite the drop, the results beat Wall Street predictions. But the Miami-based company issued a lower-than-expected profit prediction for the full year, and its shares fell 6 percent in morning trading.

Cruise line operators entered 2012 thinking they could start charging passengers more again after offering widespread discounts following the 2007-2009 recession. But just two weeks into the year, 32 people died when Carnival's Costa Concordia sank off the coast of Italy. Bookings slumped even as cruise companies lowered prices.

For the quarter ended Nov. 30, Carnival earned $93 million, or 12 cents per share, down from $217 million, or 28 cents per share, in the same quarter last year. Excluding one-time items, the company, which operates Holland America Line, Princess Cruises and Carnival Cruise Lines, said it posted an adjusted profit of 13 cents per share.

Revenue fell 3 percent to $3.58 billion from $3.7 billion.

Analysts, on average, expected a profit of 11 cents per share on $3.49 billion in revenue, according to a FactSet poll.

Carnival's revenue yields, which measure the amount a cruise company makes from its passengers after removing expenses, fell 4.5 percent, but were better than the 5 to 6 percent drop the company projected in September. In addition, fuel prices rose 5.4 percent to $716 per metric ton, but weren't as high as the $739 per metric ton the company expected.

Those factors helped offset an increase in operating costs, resulting in the better-than-expected quarterly results, the company said.

For the full year, Carnival earned $1.3 billion, or $1.67 per share, down from $1.91 billion, or $2.42 per share, in the previous fiscal year. Revenue fell to $15.38 billion from $15.79 billion.

Carnival said that over the past six weeks, booking volumes for the first three quarters of this year were about the same as they were at the same time last year, with slightly lower prices. But overall advance bookings for 2013 continue to trail levels a year ago at slightly lower prices, the company said.

Carnival said it currently expects full year 2013 net revenue yields, excluding the effects of currency exchange rates, to rise between 1 and 2 percent. The yields are expected to decline 2 to 3 percent in the first quarter, but then improve sequentially during the rest of the year as ticket prices and occupancy for the North American brands and Costa recover.

Taking those expectations into account, Carnival projected an adjusted 2013 profit of $2.20 to $2.40 per share. Analysts had expected $2.47 per share.

The company also projected a fiscal first-quarter profit of 3 to 7 cents per share, while analysts expect a profit of 5 cents per share.

Carnival shares fell $2.15, or 6 percent, to $36.91 in morning trading.