Among other items: Lockheed Martin said yesterday that fourth-quarter earnings rose 8 percent on higher sales in its electronic systems and space businesses; Verizon earned $3.04 billion in the fourth quarter, posting a 6 percent revenue gain; and UPS said it is implementing a management hiring freeze and will work harder on reducing costs as...

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United Airlines reported a $664 million loss for the fourth quarter yesterday and a $1.6 billion loss for 2004.

In reporting the loss, the world’s No. 2 airline said continuing financial pressure will force it to scale back its capacity by 3 percent this year, though the company did not provide specifics on where or how those cuts will be made.

CEO Glenn Tilton called the fourth-quarter performance “unsustainable.”

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United’s results mark the company’s 18th straight quarterly loss. United, which has been in bankruptcy for 26 months, has lost $9.7 billion in the four years since it last turned a profit, in 2000.

United’s net loss for the final three months of 2004, including special items, was $5.73 per share, larger than the loss of $4.33 per share, or $476 million, for the same period a year earlier. Revenues for the fourth quarter rose 5 percent to $4 billion, from $3.8 billion.

United’s $1.6 billion loss for the year was its smallest of the past four years. The company last made money in 2000, when it had net income of $322 million.

Electronic systems, space boost Lockheed earnings

Lockheed Martin, the nation’s largest defense company, said yesterday that fourth-quarter earnings rose 8 percent on higher sales in its electronic systems and space businesses, beating Wall Street predictions. Its shares rose nearly 3 percent.

The defense contractor said it earned $372 million, or 83 cents per share, in the fourth quarter of 2004. That was higher than the $344 million, or 77 cents per share, that Lockheed posted a year ago. The company also raised its outlook for 2005.

For all of 2004, Lockheed had earnings of $1.27 billion, or $2.83 per share, up from 2003 earnings of $1.05 billion, or $2.34 per share. Revenue for the year was $35.5 billion compared with $31.8 billion in 2003.

Lockheed shares rose $1.17, to close at $56.40 yesterday.

Cellular business drives Verizon revenue gain

Verizon earned $3.04 billion in the fourth quarter, posting a 6 percent revenue gain as another powerful showing by the cellular business more than compensated for the continuing decline of traditional local phone service.

The profit reported yesterday, which included about $1.2 billion in one-time gains and related tax benefits from the sale of some Canadian assets, amounted to $1.08 per share, matching most Wall Street forecasts.

Fourth-quarter revenues totaled $18.26 billion, up from $17.20 billion a year earlier.

Verizon Wireless, owned in partnership with Vodafone of Britain, contributed more than 40 percent of the company’s revenues, compared with 35 percent in the final months of 2003. The unit’s revenue total of $7.34 billion was up 22.7 percent from the year-ago period.

For all of 2004, Verizon earned $7.83 billion, or $2.79 per share. In 2003, the company earned $3.08 billion, or $1.12 per share.

Shares of Verizon fell 65 cents to close at $35.87 yesterday.

Sears posts 86 percent decline in net earnings

Sears is limping into its proposed merger with Kmart.

The department-store giant reported an 86 percent drop in fourth-quarter net earnings yesterday after shedding its profitable credit-card unit a year earlier, its results now dependent on sagging retail sales.

The $378 million quarterly profit, which outpaced Wall Street’s estimates, ended a year of lower sales that CEO Alan Lacy acknowledged was another “disappointing financial performance.”

Net income for the last three months of 2004 was $378 million, or $1.76 per share, down 86 percent from the record $2.7 billion, or $10.84 per share, of a year earlier when Sears sold its credit-card unit to Citigroup. Analysts interviewed by Thomson First Call had estimated earnings at $1.66 per share.

Revenues declined 4.6 percent to $11.1 billion from $11.6 billion, with comparable-store sales flat in the quarter after a decline last month.

For the year, the company had a net loss of $489 million, or $2.26 per share, compared with net income of $3.4 billion, or $11.86 per share, a year earlier. Revenues were $35.7 billion, down 1.8 percent from $36.4 billion.

Sears shares rose 18 cents to close at $50.08 yesterday — up about 11 percent since the Kmart merger was announced Nov. 17.

Disappointing results spur UPS cost-cutting plan

UPS, the world’s largest shipping carrier, said it is implementing a management hiring freeze and will work harder on reducing costs as it reported disappointing fourth-quarter results that included weaker than expected domestic ground volume.

The company also said yesterday that while it expects strong earnings and overall growth in 2005, its U.S. ground volume is only expected to rise 2 percent to 3 percent, which would be below the 3.5 percent the economy is projected to grow this year.

UPS shares fell $1.49, or 2 percent, to close at $74.01 yesterday.

UPS said it earned $866 million, or 76 cents a share, for the three months ended Dec. 31, a slim 1.2 percent increase compared with its profit of $856 million, or 75 cents a share, for the same period a year ago.

Excluding one-time items, UPS said it earned $933 million, or 82 cents a share, in the quarter. Analysts were expecting earnings of 76 cents a share.

Revenue in the October-December period was $9.84 billion, a 10.2 percent increase from the $8.93 billion a year ago.

For all of 2004, UPS said it earned $3.33 billion, or $2.93 a share, compared with a profit of $2.90 billion, or $2.55 a share, for the previous year.

Caterpillar forecast isn’t met, shares decline

Caterpillar, the heavy equipment manufacturer, reported a 58 percent surge in fourth quarter net income yesterday on sharply higher sales but still fell short of Wall Street’s profit expectations. Its shares tumbled more than 5 percent.

The company said it earned $551 million, or $1.55 a share, for the October-December period, up from $349 million, or 97 cents a share, a year earlier. Analysts had expected a profit of $1.63 a share.

Sales rose 33 percent to $8.57 billion from $6.47 billion a year ago and surpassed analysts’ estimates of $7.6 billion in sales.

Its shares fell $4.60, or 5.1 percent, to close at $86.52 yesterday — down more than 12 percent from the 52-week high of $98.72 reached last month.

For the year, its profits climbed 85 percent to $2.04 billion, or $5.75 a share, from $1.01 billion, or $3.13 a share, a year ago. Revenue rose to $30.3 billion, topping the $30 billion mark for the first time and up from $22.76 billion a year ago.

Compiled from The Associated Press. Information on United Airlines reducing capacity and CEO Glenn Tilton’s comment provided by USA Today.

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