Delta Airlines (OTC BB: DALRQ.PK) managed to lift off as an operating entity in 2006, earning $58 million in operating profit for the year, fully $2.1 billion more than the prior year, and the first such operating profit for the carrier since 2000.
However, for the year's final quarter, when reorganization charges and special items are included, the company posted a net loss of $2 billion. When those reorganization and special items are excluded from Delta's results, the net quarterly loss was "only" $179 million, $603 million better than Delta's loss of $782 million in the same period a year earlier.
Also for the quarter, total operating revenue increased 5.3% to $4.14 billion, while operating expenses declined 10.2% to $4.13 billion. On Dec. 31, 2006, Delta was sitting on $3.5 billion in cash, of which $2.6 billion was unrestricted.
Delta watchers may be less interested in the company's recent financial results than in its progress toward re-emerging as a stand-alone airline following its long period under bankruptcy protection. As management said in a statement, "On February 7, 2007, the Bankruptcy Court, with no creditors objecting, approved Delta's Disclosure Statement and authorized the company to begin soliciting approval from its creditors for the Plan of Reorganization."
The company also noted that the committee of unsecured creditors -- the key group in determining the airline's fate -- supports Delta's reorganization plan. A confirmation hearing, during which the bankruptcy court will consider approval of the plan, will occur on April 25. Delta had earlier fended off a $9.8 billion hostile offer from Arizona-based US Airways
Delta now expects to emerge in the spring "as a strong, competitive, independent airline." At the end of last month, it announced that it had obtained commitments for a $2.5 billion exit financing facility from six financial institutions.
So it appears that this iteration of the Delta saga is about to be concluded. My reactions are mixed, frankly: On the one hand, I laud management's tenacity and perspicacity for being able to see the carrier through bankruptcy to a now-likely emergence as a stand-alone airline. I further hope selfishly -- because I live in the primary region served by the airline -- that it will remain a strong, always-on-time operating presence. But while I also recognize that equity holders "pays their money and takes their chances," I hope the next batch of shareholders is better served by Delta than its recent equity investors have been.
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