Southwest Airlines reports record 4Q net income of $236 million and $805 million for the full year

Southwest Airlines Company (Dallas) today reported its fourth quarter and full year 2013 results:

  • Record fourth quarter net income, excluding special items*, of $236 million, or $.33 per diluted share, compared to fourth quarter 2012 net income, excluding special items, of $65 million, or $.09 per diluted share.  This exceeded the First Call consensus estimate of $.29 per diluted share.
  • Record fourth quarter net income of $212 million, or $.30 per diluted share, which included $24 million(net) of unfavorable special items, compared to net income of $78 million, or $.11 per diluted share, in fourth quarter 2012, which included $13 million (net) of favorable special items.
  • Record full year net income, excluding special items, of $805 million, or $1.12 per diluted share, compared to full year 2012 net income, excluding special items, of $417 million, or $.56 per diluted share.
  • Record full year net income of $754 million, or $1.05 per diluted share, which included $51 million (net) of unfavorable special items, compared to net income of $421 million, or $.56 per diluted share, in full year 2012, which included $4 million (net) of favorable special items.
  • Return on invested capital* (before taxes and excluding special items) for full year 2013 of 13.1 percent, as compared to 7.2 percent for full year 2012.

Gary C. Kelly, Chairman of the Board, President, and Chief Executive Officer, stated, “We are happy to report full year 2013 net income of $805 million, and fourth quarter 2013 net income of $236 million, both excluding special items.  We are extremely proud of these record results and the tremendous progress made on our strategic initiatives, which produced substantial returns and contributed significantly to our superb 2013 financial performance.  Our full year 2013 total operating revenues were a record $17.7 billion, and our cost performance was excellent.  We generated strong free cash flow* of $1.0 billion in 2013, allowing us to return $611 million to our Shareholders, through share repurchases and dividend payments, and reduce debt and capital lease obligations by $313 million.  Our pre-tax return on invested capital, excluding special items (ROIC), for full year 2013 was 13.1 percent, nearly double the prior year’s performance.  I want to thank the outstanding People of Southwest and AirTran.  They deserve all the credit for producing these strong results, which earned them a$228 million contribution to the Profitsharing Plan for the year 2013, up 88.4 percent, or $107 million, compared to the prior year.

“We ended 2013 strong, with an exceptional fourth quarter performance.  Total operating revenues  were a fourth quarter record $4.4 billion, increasing 6.1 percent compared to fourth quarter last year.  On a unit basis (per available seat mile), our fourth quarter 2013 revenues increased 3.8 percent year-over-year, which is remarkable considering the increase in stage length and seat density.  While traffic was impacted at the beginning of the quarter by the federal government shutdown, we saw a healthy rebound in traffic and revenue trends, resulting in a five percent year-over-year increase in passenger unit revenues for the combined November/December period.  Strong travel demand and favorable year-over-year unit revenues have continued in January, thus far.  And, bookings for the remainder of the first quarter are strong.  Based on these trends, we currently expect year-over-year growth in first quarter 2014 unit revenues.

“We also had an outstanding fourth quarter 2013 cost performance, with unit costs, excluding special items, down 2.8 percent year-over-year.  We benefited from stable fuel prices, our ongoing fleet modernization efforts, and rigorous cost control efforts across the Company.  We closed the year with fourth quarter 2013 economic fuel costs of $3.05 per gallon, a decline of approximately eight percent from fourth quarter 2012.  Based on current market prices and our existing fuel derivative contracts, as of January 17 th, we expect first quarter 2014 economic fuel costs to be in the $3.05 to $3.10 per gallon range, which would be a significant drop year-over-year.  Excluding fuel, profitsharing, and special items, our fourth quarter 2013 unit costs declined 0.4 percent year-over-year.  We expect a year-over-year increase in our first quarter 2014 unit costs, excluding fuel, profitsharing, and special items.

“We are on track with our AirTran integration, achieving approximately $400 million in annual net pre-tax synergies in 2013, as planned.  Since 2011, we have converted 17 of the 52 AirTran Boeing 737-700s to Southwest, and we have replaced the flying for 13 AirTran Boeing 717-200s transitioned to Delta in 2013, with Southwest 737 service.  Nine more 717s were removed from active service at year end 2013, and the remaining 66 717s are scheduled to be removed from the AirTran network by the end of this year, and transitioned to Delta through 2015.  The remaining 35 AirTran Boeing 737-700s are scheduled to be converted to Southwest this year.  During fourth quarter, we converted Memphis, Pensacola, San Juan, and Buffalo to Southwest, and launched Southwest service to Richmond.  At year end 2013, all remaining domestic AirTran markets had Southwest service.  We are pleased with the rapid improvement of our developing markets as we convert AirTran routes into Southwest and optimize our combined networks.  With our international reservation system scheduled for implementation later this month, we remain on track to convert AirTran’s seven international markets, along with its remaining domestic markets, by the end of this year.  As planned, this will allow us to complete the AirTran integration and retire the brand by the end of 2014.

“We plan to launch international service on Southwest Airlines this year, which will be a huge milestone for us.  Construction of a five-gate international facility at Houston’s William P. Hobby Airport, expected to open in late 2015, has begun, and can accommodate Southwest service to destinations in the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, and the northern cities of South America.  We also have future plans to bring Southwest near-international service to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL).  Under a recently executed agreement with Broward County, Florida, which owns and operates FLL, we will oversee and manage the design and construction of the airport’s Terminal 1 Modernization Project.  In addition to significant improvements to the existing Terminal 1, the project includes the design and construction of a new five-gate Concourse A with an international processing facility.

“During 2014, we expect to take delivery of 33 new Boeing 737-800s and 12 pre-owned -700s, which will allow us to keep our 2014 capacity relatively flat, year-over-year, as we continue to transition the AirTran 717 fleet to Delta, and retire Classic Boeing 737 aircraft.  We continue to optimize the combined Southwest and AirTran route networks, and announced new travel options in 2014 to some of our Customers’ favorite domestic destinations, like San Diego and Portland, Oregon.  We also look forward to expanding service to Dallas Love Field, with the October 2014 repeal of the Wright Amendment.

“We are excited about bringing more flights to New York’s LaGuardia Airport with our recent acquisition of 12 takeoff and landing slots, pursuant to American Airlines’ required divestiture for its merger with US Airways.  In addition, we gained permanent control of 10 takeoff and landing slots at LaGuardia that Southwest currently operates under lease from American.  In an effort to bring more low fares to Washington’s Reagan National Airport, we also have bid on slots that American is required to divest.

“We enter 2014 financially strong and excited about the opportunities unfolding.  We are proud of our many 2013 accomplishments, most notably our strong financial performance that we believe positions us well to achieve our targeted 15 percent ROIC in 2014.  As ever, we remain focused on providing job security for our Employees;  providing friendly, reliable and low-fare service to our Customers;  and enhancing Shareholder value.”

Notable 2013 accomplishments for Southwest Airlines include:

  • Achieved 41st consecutive year of profitability, with record profits
  • Achieved 13.1 percent return on invested capital (before taxes and excluding special items)
  • Contributed $228 million to the Profitsharing Plan, an increase of $107 million
  • Returned $611 million to Shareholders through repurchases of $540 million of common stock (38 million shares) and distribution of $71 million in dividends
  • Reduced long-term debt and capital lease obligations by $313 million
  • Deferred $1 billion in aircraft capital spending to beyond 2018
  • Received numerous awards and recognitions, most notably being recognized as the Best Domestic Airline for Customer Service by Executive Travel Magazine’s Leading Edge Awards, named Brand of the Year in the Value Airline Category by the Harris Poll, and recognized with the top ranking by InsideFlyer Magazine for Best Customer Service and Best Loyalty Credit Card
  • For the 17th consecutive year, Southwest Airlines Cargo received the 2013 Quest for Quality Award, awarded by Logistics Management Magazine
  • Launched the first Southwest destination outside the 48 contiguous states with service to San Juan, Puerto Rico
  • Completed the connection between the Southwest and AirTran networks
  • Expanded Southwest Cargo to the AirTran network
  • Ended the year with Southwest service in all domestic AirTran airports
  • Launched AirTran service to Hartford and Oklahoma City
  • Completed the 143-seat Evolve retrofit of 372 Southwest 737-700s and 78 737-300s
  • Converted 6 of the 52 AirTran 737-700s to the Southwest livery with Evolve configuration, bringing cumulative conversions to 17
  • Transitioned 13 of the 88 AirTran 717-200s to Delta Air Lines
  • Reached a cumulative 65 percent of the AirTran workforce converted to Southwest, with the remaining flight crews and dispatchers scheduled to transition in 2014
  • Completed equipping all -700 and -800 aircraft with satellite-based WiFi  (including completed AirTran conversions) and became the first and only carrier to offer gate-to-gate connectivity
  • Partnered with DISH to offer “TV Flies Free” in second half 2013; DISH sponsorship was recently extended through 2014
  • Launched movies on demand, a new WiFi portal, and Messaging feature for iOS users
  • Remained on track to implement Southwest’s International Reservation system in January 2014
  • Broke ground on the five-gate, international facility at Houston’s William P. Hobby Airport, planned to open in late 2015
  • Acquired 12 slots (for six roundtrip flights) at New York’s LaGuardia Airport and permanently secured 10 slots (five roundtrip flights) that are currently being operated by Southwest
  • Joined the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) expedited screening program known as TSA Pre Check™

Financial Results
The Company’s fourth quarter 2013 total operating revenues increased 6.1 percent to $4.4 billion, while operating unit revenues increased 3.8 percent, on a 2.2 percent increase in available seat miles and a 3.0 percent increase in average seats per trip, all as compared to fourth quarter 2012.  Based on current revenue and booking trends, the Company expects year-over-year growth in its first quarter 2014 unit revenues.

Total operating expenses in fourth quarter 2013 decreased 1.0 percent to $4.0 billion, as compared to fourth quarter 2012.  The Company incurred costs (before taxes) associated with the acquisition and integration of AirTran, which are special items, of $19 million during fourth quarter 2013, compared to $14 million in fourth quarter 2012.  Excluding special items in both periods, total operating expenses of $4.0 billion in fourth quarter 2013 were comparable to fourth quarter 2012.

Fourth quarter 2013 economic fuel costs were $3.05 per gallon, including $.03 per gallon in favorable cash settlements from fuel derivative contracts, compared to $3.32 per gallon in fourth quarter 2012, including $.09per gallon in unfavorable cash settlements from fuel derivative contracts.  Based on the Company’s fuel derivative contracts and market prices as of January 17 th, first quarter 2014 economic fuel costs are expected to be in the $3.05 to $3.10 per gallon range, which is significantly below first quarter 2013’s economic fuel costs of $3.29 per gallon.  As of January 17 th, the fair market value of the Company’s hedge portfolio through 2017 was a net asset of approximately $108 million.  Additional information regarding the Company’s fuel derivative contracts is included in the accompanying tables.

Excluding economic fuel expense, profitsharing, and special items in both periods, fourth quarter 2013 operating costs increased 1.8 percent from fourth quarter 2012, and decreased 0.4 percent on a unit basis.  Based on current cost trends, the Company expects first quarter 2014 unit costs, excluding fuel, profitsharing, and special items, to increase from first quarter 2013’s 8.21 cents, with full year 2014 unit costs, excluding fuel, profitsharing, and special items, expected to increase year-over-year in the two to three percent range.

Fourth quarter 2013 operating income was a fourth quarter record $386 million, compared to $91 million in fourth quarter 2012.  Excluding special items, fourth quarter 2013 operating income was also a fourth quarter record $418 million, compared to $136 million in the same period last year.

Other expenses in fourth quarter 2013 were $52 million, compared to other income of $34 million in fourth quarter 2012.  This $86 million swing primarily resulted from $27 million in other losses recognized in fourth quarter 2013, compared to other gains of $62 million recognized in fourth quarter 2012.  In both periods, these gains/losses included unrealized mark-to-market gains/losses associated with a portion of the Company’s fuel hedging portfolio, which are special items.  Excluding these special items, fourth quarter 2013 had $21 million in other expenses, compared to $3 million in fourth quarter 2012, primarily attributable to the premium costs associated with the Company’s fuel derivative contracts.  First quarter 2014 premium costs related to fuel derivative contracts are currently estimated to be in the $10 million to $20 million range, compared to $5 millionin first quarter 2013.  Net interest expense in fourth quarter 2013 was $25 million, compared to $28 million in fourth quarter 2012.

For 2013, total operating revenues increased 3.6 percent to $17.7 billion, while total operating expenses of$16.4 billion were comparable to 2012.  Operating income for 2013 was a record $1.3 billion, compared to $623 million for 2012.  For 2013, special charges (before taxes) associated with the acquisition and integration of AirTran were $86 million.  Cumulative costs associated with the acquisition and integration of AirTran, as of December 31, 2013, totaled approximately $410 million (before profitsharing and taxes).  The Company expects total acquisition and integration costs to be no more than $550 million (before profitsharing and taxes).  Excluding special items in both periods, operating income was a record $1.4 billion for 2013, compared to $838 million for 2012.

As of January 22, the Company had approximately $3.1 billion in cash and short-term investments, and a fully available unsecured revolving credit line of $1 billion.  Net cash provided by operations during fourth quarter 2013 was $302 million, and capital expenditures were $451 million.  For  2013, net cash provided by operations was $2.49 billion, and capital expenditures were $1.45 billion, resulting in free cash flow of approximately $1.04 billion.  The Company currently estimates its 2014 capital expenditures to be in the $1.5 billion to $1.6 billion range.  The Company repurchased $540 million in common stock, or 38 million shares, during 2013.  Since August 2011, the Company has repurchased $1.2 billion, or 111 million shares, of common stock under its $1.5 billion share repurchase authorization.  This reduced the Company’s outstanding common stock by approximately 14 percent.  The Company repaid $313 million in debt and capital lease obligations during 2013, and is currently scheduled to repay approximately $550 million in debt and capital lease obligations during 2014.

Copyright Photo: Jay Selman/ Southwest Airlines’ Boeing 737-7H4 WL N945WN (msn 36660) in the Florida One scheme approaches the runway at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport.

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