NEW YORK (Reuters) -
JetBlue Airways Inc. eked out a fourth-quarter profit, the low-cost carrier reported Thursday, narrowly dodging a first-ever quarterly loss analysts had predicted thanks to a hedge against high fuel costs.
JetBlue (Research), which has posted a profit every quarter since its initial public offering in April 2002, said fourth-quarter net income plunged to $2.4 million, or 2 cents a share, from $19.54 million, or 17 cents a share, a year earlier.
Wall Street analysts, on average, expected a loss of 4 cents a share.
JetBlue, like every other airline, has been struggling with fuel prices which have reached multiple record highs in the past year.
It said operating revenue in the quarter rose 27 percent to $334 million.
Shares of the airline, a former Wall Street darling, have lost 26 percent since the end of 2003, slightly underperforming the American Stock Exchange Airlines index, down 25 percent for the period.
JetBlue is the nation's No. 10 airline in terms of passenger volume, but is the No. 2 U.S. airline by market value after leading low-cost carrier Southwest Airlines (Research).
Unlike some of the cash-strapped money-losing larger airlines, JetBlue had some protection from fuel price hikes due to its long-term fuel purchase contracts. It said it realized a $13.1 million savings in the quarter from those contracts.
The New York-based airline said it ended the quarter with $449.2 million in cash and short-term investments.