UPDATE 2-Carnival says Cuba could offer "tremendous opportunity"

viernes 19 de diciembre de 2014 14:43 GYT

(Adds details, analyst comment, updates shares)

By Devika Krishna Kumar

Dec 19 (Reuters) - Carnival Corp, the world's largest cruise operator, said Cuba would present "a tremendous opportunity" if the United States ended its economic embargo on the Caribbean nation.

The United States and Cuba said on Wednesday they would restore diplomatic ties, the biggest step towards normalizing business relations since Washington severed them five decades ago.

"We are excited about the prospect for Cuba," Carnival Chief Executive Arnold Donald said on a conference call following the release of the company's fourth-quarter results.

"There's a lot of pent-up demand to visit Cuba," he said.

The company's shares rose 3.5 percent following Wednesday's news. They fell as much as 2 percent in early trading on Friday after the company announced lower-than-expected quarterly sales.

Carnival has been facing intense competition in the Caribbean, its largest market, as rivals such as Europe-based MSC Cruises slash prices to attract customers.

Carnival, which has its U.S. headquarters and operational base in Miami, said cruises to Cuba would allow for "very fuel-efficient itineraries."   Continuación...