January 26, 2017 / 1:46 PM / a year ago

UPDATE 3-Royal Caribbean sets sail for strong 2017 with upbeat forecast

* Forecasts 2017 adj. EPS of $6.90-$7.10 vs est. $6.80

* Shares touch more than a year high

* Q4 profit beats on pricier tickets, Caribbean demand

* Shares of rival Carnival hit more than 12-yr high (Adds conference call and analyst comments, updates shares)

By Abhijith Ganapavaram and Aravind K

Jan 26 (Reuters) - Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd forecast higher-than-expected adjusted earnings for 2017, helped by a strong start to bookings for Caribbean cruises, putting the No. 2 U.S. cruise operator on track to beat its own forecast of doubling profit from 2014.

The company’s upbeat forecast sent its shares to more than a year high and also lifted rivals Carnival Corp and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd.

“While trends have been strong from our key sourcing regions, we are particularly encouraged by what we are seeing in North America,” Jason Liberty, Royal Caribbean’s chief financial officer, said on a post-earnings call on Thursday.

Liberty added that the Caribbean, a key market for cruise operators, would account for close to 50 percent of total capacity this year.

Royal Caribbean operates ships such as Harmony of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas in the Caribbean.

The company and Carnival Corp benefited in 2016 from a return in demand for cruises to the Caribbean as consumer spending rose in the United States, allowing the operators to hike ticket prices.


Miami, Florida-based Royal Caribbean forecast a 2017 adjusted profit of $6.90-$7.10 per share, higher than analysts’ average estimate of $6.80 and its own goal of $6.78.

The company’s net revenue yields forecast of a 4-6 percent rise on a constant-currency basis was its highest in at least 10 years, UBS analyst Robin Farley wrote in a note.

Net revenue yield, which takes into account the spending per available berth, is a keenly watched metric in cruise operators.

Royal Caribbean also reported a higher-than-expected quarterly profit for the fourth quarter, helped by demand for its pricier Caribbean cruises and higher onboard spending.

Net revenue yields increased 5.3 percent on a constant-currency basis.

Net income rose 26 percent to $261.1 million, or $1.21 per share, in the quarter ended Dec. 31, from a year earlier.

Excluding items, Royal Caribbean earned $1.23 per share, above the average analyst estimate of $1.21, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Revenue rose marginally to $1.91 billion, missing Wall Street expectations of $1.97 billion.

Royal Caribbean’s shares were up 7.5 percent at $94.21, while Carnival touched more than a 12-year high of $57.11. Norwegian Cruise was up 3.8 percent. (Reporting by Aravind K and Abhijith Ganapavaram in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel)

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