Princess sees profit; bookings bouncing back

PHOTO/James MacPherson/AJOC
LONDON -- British cruise operator Princess Cruises said Dec. 27 that its full-year profit would be at the top end of earlier forecasts, and its proposed merger with Royal Caribbean Cruises would produce annual savings of $100 million.

Princess, which offers cruises to Alaska destinations, said it had seen an improvement in bookings in the fourth quarter.

The upturn in bookings led the company to increase its forecast of earnings per share for 2001 to at least 40 cents. In October, the company had predicted earnings per share of between 38 cents and 40 cents.

"Trading conditions have continued to improve from the difficult period in the immediate aftermath of the events of 11 September," chief executive officer Peter Ratcliffe said. "Of course, we are now entering the key January to March booking period, which will have a major influence on the 2002 results."

Since the beginning of November, weekly net bookings in North America have consistently exceeded those of the same period 12 months earlier, although cumulative bookings for 2002 still remain behind last year’s levels at this time, Princess officials said.

Princess’ board issued a circular to shareholders, urging them to approve the planned merger with Royal Caribbean.

"The Board of P&O Princess believes that the combination with Royal Caribbean is deliverable and will accelerate creation of significant value for shareholders," Ratcliffe said.

Princess’ proposed merger with Royal Caribbean would create a combined business worth $6 billion and overtake Carnival in size. Miami-based Royal Caribbean is the second-largest cruise line operator, while Princess, which has its headquarters in London, is No. 3.

Princess is also facing a $4.59 billion takeover bid from Miami-based Carnival, the world’s largest cruise operator.

01/06/2002 - 8:00pm