ATLANTA - Delta Air Lines Inc., the nation's third-largest carrier, said Wednesday its loss widened in the first quarter to a whopping $6.39 billion because of soaring fuel prices and the steep decline in the company's market value.
The results badly missed Wall Street expectations, despite a 12 percent increase in sales.
The Atlanta-based company said the loss is equivalent to $16.15 a share. That compares with a loss of $130 million that Delta reported in the year-ago January-March quarter, when it was still in bankruptcy.
Excluding special items, primarily a $6.1 billion non-cash charge relating to the decline in Delta's market value due to sustained record fuel prices, the airline lost $274 million, or 69 cents a share, in the first quarter.
Analysts were expecting a Delta loss of 49 cents a share, excluding one-time items.
Revenue in the quarter rose to $4.77 billion, compared with $4.24 billion recorded in the same period a year ago. Delta shares rose 10 cents in premarket trading to $6.90, just off a 52-week low of $6.70.
Delta said its first-quarter loss before special items was driven by a $585 million year-over-year increase in the cost of fuel.
Delta's shares have fallen nearly 69 percent since the airline emerged from Chapter 11 on April 30, 2007.
Delta announced April 14 that it has agreed to acquire Northwest Airlines Corp. in a stock-swap deal that, if approved by regulators and shareholders, would create the world's largest airline. Northwest was also scheduled to release first-quarter results Wednesday.
"Our need to respond to the pressures of dramatically rising fuel costs and a softening U.S. economy drove us to take a closer look at all options to protect Delta's future," Chief Executive Richard Anderson said in a statement. "The merger with Northwest will create an airline with the size, scale and global presence to weather economic downturns and compete long-term in the global marketplace."
Gas and oil prices pushed further into record high territory Tuesday, with retail gas reaching a national average of $3.51 for the first time and crude nearing $120.