In Q4, United [$UAL] lost a cool $1.9 billion, or $6.39 a share, contrasting with gains of $2.53 a share in the year-ago quarter. Operating revenue sank to $3.41 billion, compared with $10.9 billion a year ago. Analysts expected United to post a GAAP loss of $6.13 a share on sales of $3.42 billion. United shares slipped 0.8% in the extended session Wednesday after ending the trading day up 1%.
United expects first quarter 2021 total operating revenue to be down 65% to 70%. An “accelerated” distribution of the vaccine could mean faster improvement, it said, but the company isn’t counting on this potential improvement in its first quarter revenue outlook. It was the airline’s fourth consecutive quarterly loss as pandy-related travel restrictions and concerns about air travel and virus transmission gut-punched its business, including the more profitable 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.