United Airlines reported a $53 million loss for the fourth quarter Tuesday on a sharp rise in the price of fuel and bad weather that forced...

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United Airlines reported a $53 million loss for the fourth quarter Tuesday on a sharp rise in the price of fuel and bad weather that forced a raft of holiday flight cancellations.

The loss was less than expected but still reflected the damage that high fuel costs are doing to the bottom line of the nation’s second-largest carrier and other U.S. airlines.

Chief Executive Glenn Tilton, who has long expressed interest in pairing United with another airline, was mum about talks widely reported to be under way with Delta Air Lines, which is looking at potential combinations with either United or Northwest Airlines.

United’s loss for the last three months of 2007 amounted to 47 cents a share and was improved from a loss of $61 million, or 55 cents a share, in the same quarter a year earlier.

Revenue was $5.03 billion, up 9.7 percent from $4.59 billion a year ago, partly due to higher fares.

Analysts expected a loss of 89 cents a share and revenue of $4.95 billion, based on a survey by Thomson Financial.

United shares fell $1.07 cents, or 3.3 percent, to $31.87 Tuesday.

Wachovia

Big write-downs damage bottom line

National bank Wachovia said Tuesday its fourth-quarter profit tumbled 98 percent due to a $1.7 billion reduction in the value of certain portfolios and $1.5 billion set aside to cover bad loans.

Fourth-quarter profit fell to $51 million, or 3 cents a share, from $2.3 billion, or $1.20 a share, during the same period the previous year.

Excluding merger-related expenses, Wachovia earned $160 million, or 8 cents a share, during the fourth quarter.

Analysts polled by Thomson Financial, on average, forecast earnings of 33 cents a share for the quarter. One-time charges are not always included in analysts’ estimates.

Wachovia shares rose $1.11, or 3.6 percent, to $31.91 Tuesday.

Bank of America

Profit tumbles on credit losses

Bank of America said Tuesday its fourth-quarter profit fell 95 percent, hurt by mounting credit losses and weak investment banking results.

Profit at the bank dropped to $268 million, or 5 cents a share, in the three months ended Dec. 31 from $5.26 billion, or $1.16 a share, a year ago.

The bank’s revenue fell 32 percent to $12.67 billion from $18.49 billion last year.

Analysts expected earnings of 18 cents a share on revenue of $13.24 billion, according to a Thomson Financial poll.

Bank of America shares rose $1.42, or nearly 4 percent, to $37.39 Tuesday.

Texas Instruments

Cellphone chips sound like big sellers

Texas Instruments (TI), the largest maker of chips for mobile phones, said Tuesday its fourth-quarter profit rose 13 percent on strong sales of analog and digital signal processing chips.

The company posted profit of $756 million, or 54 cents a share, compared with $668 million, or 45 cents a share, in the fourth quarter. Revenue rose 3 percent to $3.56 billion from $3.46 billion last year.

Analysts polled by Thomson Financial, on average, expected earnings of 52 cents a share on sales of $3.58 billion.

The company said its revenue growth was led by demand for its digital signal processors and analog products, which rose 12 percent each.

TI forecast first-quarter earnings of 43 cents to 49 cents a share on revenue of $3.27 billion to $3.55 billion. Analysts were projecting earnings of 45 cents a share on revenue of $3.41 billion.

TI shares rose 62 cents to $29.60 in after-hours trading, after closing the regular session down 48 cents at $28.98.

DuPont

Chemical giant ends year on down note

Chemicals maker DuPont reported a drop in fourth-quarter profit Tuesday but said earnings rose sharply when one-time items that boosted the previous year’s profit were excluded.

Profit dropped 37 percent to $545 million, or 60 cents a share, from $871 million, or 94 cents a share, in the final quarter of 2006.

Excluding a series of gains in each period, earnings rose 27 percent, from 45 cents to 57 cents a share, exceeding estimates on Wall Street. Analysts expected 49 cents a share, Thomson Financial reported.

Shares of DuPont, one of the 30 Dow stocks, fell 14 cents to $42.56 Tuesday.

Johnson & Johnson

Overseas growth pushes up results

The profit of health-care-products maker Johnson & Johnson rose almost 10 percent in the fourth quarter as revenues jumped by double digits despite sales drops for two key product lines.

The maker of prescription drugs, medical devices, contact lenses and baby-care items reported Tuesday a profit of $2.37 billion, or 82 cents a share, up from $2.17 billion, or 74 cents a share, a year earlier.

Excluding one-time items, profit would have been 88 cents a share.

Revenues totaled $15.96 billion, up 16.6 percent from $13.7 billion in the year-ago quarter.

Most growth came overseas, with international sales jumping 26 percent and currency exchange rates boosting revenues nearly 5 percent.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial expected profit of 86 cents a share excluding one-time items on revenues of $15.4 billion.

Shares of Johnson & Johnson, a Dow component, fell $1.02 to $65.27 Tuesday.

Compiled from The Associated Press and Bloomberg News.