Continental Posts $61 Million Profit

Continental Airlines Inc. said Tuesday it earned $61 million in the third quarter, despite the rising cost of jet fuel and two hurricanes, as strong passenger traffic helped to boost revenue.

Continental's profit of 80 cents per share included a $3 million net special charge. Excluding the charge, Continental would have earned $64 million or 83 cents per share. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial had forecast 27 cents per share.

Revenue rose 15.3 percent to a record $3 billion, up from $2.6 billion in the same period last year.

Continental's fuel costs rose 65 percent, to $684 million for the July-September quarter, and was the biggest expense for the nation's No. 5 carrier.

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit the company twice, once by driving up the price of jet fuel and again by forcing Continental to suspend service for 36 hours at its largest hub, Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport. The shutdown cost an estimated $25 million in revenue.

Passenger traffic rose 7 percent and Continental also was helped by higher fares and expansion into international markets.

The Houston-based airline released its earnings report a day ahead of schedule. A spokeswoman declined to say why.

Continental's Class B shares rose 16 cents to close at $11.89 Tuesday on the New York Stock Exchange, before the income report was released. They gained 46 cents, or 3.9 percent, in late-session trading.


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