* 3rd-qtr profit $2.84/shr vs. est. $2.71
* Revenue up 5.4 pct at $2.52 bln
* Raises full-year forecast to $4.80/shr
* Shares touch all-time high (Adds CFO quote, outlook from conference call, updates share move)
By Nayan Das
Oct 23 (Reuters) - Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, the world’s No.2 cruise operator, reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit as customers spent more onboard and demand rebounded in its Caribbean market.
Shares of the company, which also raised its full-year profit forecast and announced a $500 million share buyback program, touched an all-time high of $98.54 on Friday.
The company has been struggling to boost sales for the last two years in its biggest market, the Caribbean, as excess capacity in that region led to intense competition from larger rival Carnival Corp and other operators such as MSC Cruises.
“Sales in the Caribbean are trending much more favorably at this point than last year,” Royal Caribbean’s Chief Financial Officer Jason Liberty said on a conference call. “The momentum in the Caribbean this year will continue into 2016.”
The company has been cutting capacity in the Caribbean by moving its cruises to newer markets, including China, where demand has been strong.
China, which is the company’s fastest growing market, would represent 9 percent of Royal Caribbean’s total 2016 capacity, up from 6 percent this year, Liberty said.
Sales also got a boost from the company’s move to put an end to last minute discounting in March, when bookings for the summer season are at their peak.
Net revenue per available berth, or net yields, rose 0.2 percent in the third quarter ended Sept. 30, marking its first quarterly increase this year.
The Miami, Florida-based cruise operator also raised its full-year profit forecast to $4.80 per share. The company had previously forecast earnings of $4.65-$4.75 per share.
Net income, however, halved to $228.8 million, or $1.03 per share, primarily due to a non-cash writedown of its Pullmantur operations, which has been hit by weakness in the Latin America market, especially Brazil.
Excluding items, Royal Caribbean earned $2.84 per share topping analysts’ expectations of $2.71 per share.
Total revenue of $2.52 billion also beat Wall Street estimates, boosted by a 7.8 percent rise in onboard spending.
Royal Caribbean’s shares were up 2.8 percent at $97.39 in midday trading on the New York Stock Exchange. (Reporting by Nayan Das and Abhijith G in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D‘Silva)