What happened

Shares of cruise ship operator Carnival Corporation (NYSE:CCL) jumped after the company reported a big Q4 earnings "beat" this morning and are up 7.5% as of 10 a.m. EST.

Analysts had expected Carnival to report $0.50 per share in adjusted earnings and sales of $4.57 billion for its fourth and final quarter of fiscal 2019. Instead, Carnival reported pro forma profit of $0.62 per share and $4.8 billion in sales.

Carnival's Costa Fortuna in Port Nagasaki.

Image source: Carnival Corporation.

So what

GAAP net income closely approximated pro forma profits, with Carnival reporting net income of $0.61 per share for the quarter; however, this was 14% less profit than Carnival earned in last year's fourth quarter. Sales for the quarter grew 7% year over year. That was quite an improvement, especially given that Carnival said it suffered "significant downturn in leisure travel demand for our large source markets in Continental Europe."

For the full year, GAAP net income declined 3% to $4.32 per share, while adjusted income (i.e., pro forma profits) rose 3%. Sales for the year were up a much healthier 10% at $20.8 billion.

Now what

Looking ahead to fiscal 2020, Carnival says it already has "record booked occupancy," and bookings are also "slightly ahead of the prior year," albeit "at prices that are slightly lower compared to 2019."

What this means in dollars and cents is that in Q1 of the new year, Carnival management is forecasting pro forma earnings of between $0.47 and $0.51, roughly in line with the $0.49 per share it earned in fiscal Q1 2019 and ahead of the $0.50 per share that analysts had been predicting. Likewise for the full fiscal year 2020, management forecasts pro forma earnings of $4.30 to $4.60. That's a nickel ahead of last year's $4.40 at the midpoint -- and $0.06 more than Wall Street is projecting.

Result: With one earnings beat in the bag and up to four more in store for the new year, Carnival shareholders are throwing a party for the stock today.

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