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United Loss Narrower Than Estimates After Fuel Costs Cut

Jan. 24 (Bloomberg) -- United Continental Holdings Inc. posted a narrower fourth-quarter loss than analysts estimated after curbing fuel costs and payments to regional partners.

The deficit excluding certain items was $190 million, or 58 cents a share, the Chicago-based carrier said today in a statement. Analysts estimated a loss of 61 cents on that basis, the average of 16 projections in a Bloomberg survey. Revenue fell 2.5 percent to $8.7 billion.

“With much of our integration behind us, our significantly improved operational performance and our increasing customer satisfaction, we can now go forward as one company,” Chief Executive Officer Jeff Smisek said in the statement.

Fuel costs, which have topped labor as the biggest expense for some airlines, fell less than 1 percent to $3.1 billion. Payments to regional partners dropped 2.2 percent to $583 million.

The world’s largest carrier had $439 million in one-time costs during the quarter, most of it related to integrating the operations of United and Continental by repainting planes, training employees and paying relocation or severance for eliminated positions.

Including those items, United’s net loss was $620 million, or $1.87 a share, compared with a deficit of $138 million, or 42 cents, a year earlier.

United Airlines parent UAL Corp. merged with Continental Airlines Inc. in 2010 in an all-stock deal, surpassing Delta Air Lines Inc. as the world’s biggest carrier.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mary Jane Credeur in Atlanta at mcredeur@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Ed Dufner at edufner@bloomberg.net.

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