What happened

Cruise line giant Carnival Corporation (NYSE:CCL) reported an honest-to-goodness earnings report this morning, finally giving investors news to trade on that doesn't boil down to vague impressions about whether the coronavirus situation is getting better or worse.

Unfortunately for Carnival, the actual news it had to report was a lot worse than what Wall Street had told investors to expect: Heading into Q2 earnings this morning, Street analysts had forecast a $1.56-per-share loss on revenue of $1.1 billion. What Carnival reported, though, was a $3.30-per-share loss on revenue of just $0.7 billion.

Carnival stock promptly plunged 7% in early trading, and remains down 2% as of 11:25 a.m. EDT.

Collage showing a cruise ship, a man in a face mask and a microbe

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

And believe it or not, that was the good news -- the numbers Carnival was able to report "pro forma." When calculated according to generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), Carnival's loss nearly doubled -- from $3.30 a share to a staggering $6.07 per share, as "non-cash impairment charges" exacerbated the business's underlying losses.

On the revenue front, with Carnival's multiple brand fleets confined to port by a CDC no-sail order for the bulk of the company's fiscal second quarter, unable to sail and unable to generate revenue, sales at the company plunged more than 85% in comparison to last year's Q2.  

Now what

Now Carnival's entire hope is that it will be allowed to sail again before it runs out of cash. So when will that happen?

"The company is unable to definitively predict when it will return to normal operations," admits Carnival. "As a result, the company is currently unable to provide an earnings forecast" either for Q3 or for the year as a whole. All Carnival can say for sure is that it "expects a net loss on both a U.S. GAAP and adjusted basis for the second half of 2020," which is far from surprising.

What may surprise investors -- and discourage them -- is that Carnival says its cash burn has been in line with its expectations, and the company has $7.6 billion in "available liquidity." Yet even so, Carnival anticipates having to sell even more stock, and take on even more debt, in order "to further enhance future liquidity."

Long story short, Q2 was bad, and Carnival isn't anywhere near being out of this recession yet.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.