Delta lower money burn in half within the fourth quarter and lower losses to the worst 12 months ever

A Delta Air Lines plane lands at Los Angeles International Airport

Mario Tama | Getty Images

Delta Air Lines cut its cash burn in half and reduced its losses in the fourth quarter as the coronavirus pandemic led the airline into its worst year ever, the company said Thursday.

The Atlanta-based airline posted a net loss of nearly $ 12.39 billion in 2020, a record according to FactSet data.

Here’s how Delta performed compared to Wall Street’s expectations, based on Refinitiv’s average estimates:

  • Adjusted EPS: a loss of $ 2.53 versus an expected loss of $ 2.50
  • Total sales: $ 3.97 billion after adjusting for refining sales of $ 3.53 billion

Delta posted a net loss of $ 755 million for the fourth quarter compared to a profit of $ 1.1 billion a year earlier. Total revenue decreased 65% from $ 11.44 billion in the fourth quarter of 2019 to $ 3.97 billion. The company’s sales increased $ 441 million from the sale of third-party refineries. Adjusted, Delta posted a loss per share of $ 2.53, compared to analysts’ estimates of a loss of $ 2.50 per share.

The carrier’s cash burn averaged $ 12 million per day for the quarter ended December 31, halving the average cash burn of $ 24 million per day in the third quarter. Delta has announced that it will generate positive cash flow by spring.

Delta shares rose more than 2% in premarket trading after Delta released its results.

The airline will face difficult months ahead but is aiming for a recovery in 2021 as Covid-19 vaccines are given across the country, CEO Ed Bastian said.

“As our challenges continue into 2021, I am optimistic that this will be a year of recovery and a turning point that will result in an even stronger delta return to revenue growth, profitability and free cash generation,” said Bastian.

Delta expects sales for the first quarter of the year to drop 60% to 65% year over year, just as the pandemic began. This is below analyst estimates for a 48% year-over-year decline.

The pandemic devastated demand for travel as concerns about the virus, quarantines, travel restrictions and breaks in business travel kept millions of potential customers home. The Transportation Security Administration examined only 324 million travelers last year, up from 824 million in 2019.

Airline executives were confident that the introduction of vaccines would bring some relief, but have repeatedly warned that it will not happen immediately.

“The early part of the year will be marked by a choppy rebound in demand and a booking curve that remains compressed, followed by a tipping point and finally a sustained rebound in demand as customer confidence builds, vaccinations become widespread and offices reopen.” said Delta’s President Glen Hauenstein in an earnings release.

Delta announced it closed the fourth quarter with cash of $ 16.7 billion. Delta took on billions in debt last year, including a record $ 9 billion sale supported by the SkyMiles frequent flyer program.

The airline and its rivals are receiving additional federal funding to help weather the crisis. Congress approved additional $ 15 billion in state aid to airlines to pay workers late last year, on top of an additional $ 25 billion in state salary support they received under the March CARES bill.

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