Carnival's long-term demand indicates Omicron threat will fade soon

A Carnival cruise ship is docked, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Long Beach, California, U.S., April 7, 2021. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Dec 20 (Reuters) - Carnival Corp (CCL.N), (CCL.L) on Monday flagged a hit to its near-term bookings from Omicron, even as demand for cruises late next year and beyond suggest a short-lived impact from new coronavirus variants.

Shares of Carnival gained 3.3% as the cruise operator said new COVID-19 variants have not had a significant impact on its plan to return its full fleet to operations in the spring of 2022.

The fast-spreading COVID-19 Omicron variant has been a cause of concern over the last month, creating some volatility in near-term bookings for Carnival and its rivals Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH.N) and Royal Caribbean Group (RCL.N).

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Royal Caribbean said on Monday 48 of 6,091 guests on its Symphony of the Seas, the biggest cruise ship in the world, tested positive for COVID-19. read more

"People are not cancelling their plans for May, June, July, August, because of Omicron ... Any cancellations or hesitation is really isolated to the next month or two," Deutsche Bank analyst Chris Woronka said.

Carnival forecast a return to profitability in the second half of 2022 after a net loss in the first. "2022 will be a tale of two halves," Chief Financial Officer David Bernstein said on an earnings call.

The company, which owns Cunard and Holland America Line brands, said bookings for the second half of next year and first half of 2023 were at the higher end of historical ranges even as higher prices appeared to dampen a little enthusiasm among cruisers.

Adjusted net loss widened to $1.96 billion from $1.86 billion in the fourth quarter, as the company spent heavily on preparing its ships across its several brands for sailings.

Revenue rose to $1.29 billion from $34 million a year earlier, beating Refinitiv IBES estimates of $1.41 billion.

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Reporting by Ananya Mariam Rajesh and Praveen Paramasivam in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva and Shinjini Ganguli

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