Carnival Q3 Profit Falls But Beats Estimates

Carnival Corp.’s third-quarter profit slipped nearly 20 percent, but the results were better than expected and tempered by falling fuel prices and an increase in cruise bookings.

For the three months that ended August 31, Carnival Corp. earned $1.07 billion, down 19.5 percent from $1.33 billion at the same time last year.

The good news: Fuel prices fell almost 40 percent during the quarter and Carnival said discounted ticket prices spurred bookings and demand. Bookings for the remainder of the year and through the first half of 2010 are up nearly 20 percent.

“While the environment for travel remains challenging, we are encouraged by the strength we have had in booking volumes throughout the year,” said Chairman and CEO Micky Arison. “Consumers are responding to the attractive pricing and product offerings our brands have in the marketplace. We have begun to experience an extension in the booking window as consumers realize the best value by booking early. For consumers, the value proposition has never been greater than it is now, so prospective vacationers looking for the best price should act quickly.”

Analysts are also impressed. “Upside driven by stronger than expected close in booking prices and stronger than expected on-board spending,” wrote Tim Conder, an analyst with Wachovia.