January 27, 2014 / 2:41 PM / 4 years ago

UPDATE 2-Royal Caribbean forecasts strong 2014 as demand picks up

* Fourth-quarter adjusted earnings $0.23/share vs est $0.18

* Revenue $1.85 bln vs est $1.85 bln

* Sees full-year earnings $3.20-$3.40/share vs est $3.17/share

* Shares up 3 pct

By Chris Peters

Jan 27 (Reuters) - Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd forecast a stronger-than-expected profit for 2014 as more people signed up for cruises at higher prices in Europe and Asia, signaling a resurgence in demand in an industry plagued by mishaps over the past two years.

Shares of the world’s second-largest cruise operator rose 3 percent in morning trading, after the company also reported a quarterly profit that comfortably beat Wall Street estimates.

“Demand is probably recovering a lot faster than investors had expected,” said Matthew Jacob, an analyst at ITG Investment Research.

Over the past couple of years, the industry was swept by a wave of negative publicity following a string of mishaps, the highlight of which was the sinking of market leader Carnival Corp’s Costa Concordia in 2012.

Only last week, more than 300 passengers and crew members fell ill aboard Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas, forcing the company to cut short a 10-day Caribbean cruise by two days.

However, such incidents were commonplace and would not impact demand, Jacob said.

Royal Caribbean forecast full-year 2014 adjusted earnings of $3.20-$3.40 per share. Analysts on average were expecting a profit of $3.17 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

“Despite the lingering impact of 2013’s negative media coverage on 2014, the year - and what it portends for future returns - is looking highly promising,” Chief Executive Richard Fain said in a statement.

The company’s booked load factors, or the percentage of cabins booked on a cruise, were flat for the current quarter, but are up year-over-year for the rest of 2014.

Net yields, a measure of ticket sales and money spent on board, are expected to rise 2-3 percent in 2014, excluding currency fluctuations, the company said.

Royal Caribbean also reported a better-than-expected profit helped by strong last-minute bookings for its European and Asian cruises, which made up for weakness in the Caribbean -- its biggest market.

Net income was $7 million, or 3 cents per share, in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, compared with a loss of $392.8 million, or $1.80 per share, a year earlier.

Excluding one-time items, the company earned 23 cents per share. Total revenue rose 2.7 percent to $1.85 billion.

Analysts on average had forecast earnings of 18 cents per share on revenue of $1.85 billion.

Net yields rose 3.8 percent, excluding currency fluctuations.

Shares of the company were up 0.6 percent at $47.41 in late morning trading on Monday on the New York Stock Exchange. Shares of Carnival Corp were 0.8 percent at $39.50.

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