Delta Air Lines takes hit from hedging, reports Q4 loss of $712m

ATLANTA – Delta Air Lines Inc. reported a fourth-quarter loss because falling oil prices led it to write down the value of its fuel-hedging contracts, but the airline’s results were still better than Wall Street expected.

Delta reported a $712 million loss after taking $1.4 billion in special charges, mostly hedging losses.

Excluding those items, Delta would have earned $649 million, or 78 cents per share. Analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research expected 75 cents per share in adjusted earnings.

Revenue rose 6 per cent to $9.65 billion, also beating forecasts. Analysts expected $9.59 billion.

Its shares rose $1.51, or 3.3 per cent, to $47.35 in premarket trading Tuesday.

Falling oil prices cut both ways for Delta, the nation’s third-biggest airline company. The airline’s spending on fuel plunged 83 per cent, a savings of $1.8 billion compared with the fourth quarter of 2013.

But falling oil prices lowered the value of Delta’s future fuel-hedging transactions by $1.2 billion. Hedging acts as insurance against rising oil prices, but it loses value when oil prices fall, as they have in recent months.

Delta hedges more aggressively than many airlines, partly because its fleet is relatively old and less fuel-efficient. American Airlines does not hedge and stands to benefit much more from the recent slide in oil prices.

The fourth-quarter loss equaled 86 cents per share. A year earlier, Delta earned $8.5 billion, or $9.89 per share, as results included tax benefit of $8 billion.

Delta shares have decreased roughly 7 per cent since the beginning of 2015 while the Standard & Poor’s 500 index has fallen almost 2 per cent. The stock has risen 48 per cent in the last 12 months.


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