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United profit misses estimates, hurt by strong dollar

[NEW YORK] United Airlines parent United Continental reported Thursday third-quarter profit that missed estimates as the strong dollar pulled down revenues.

The US airline, grappling with rapid changes in its chief executive since last month, said net income was US$4.82 billion, compared with US$924 million in the 2014 third quarter.

However, the more than fourfold increase was due to a one-off tax benefit. Excluding it, net income was US$1.62 billion.

Adjusted earnings per share, the reference number for North American analysts, was US$4.53, two cents below the consensus estimate.

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Revenues for the July-September quarter fell 2.4 per cent to US$10.31 billion, under pressure from the strong dollar and business travel cutbacks in the energy sector.

At the same time, the strong dollar and lower oil prices helped pare total operating expenses by about 10 per cent.

Brett Hart, who became acting chief executive of United on Monday after the new CEO Oscar Munoz suffered a heart attack last week and took a medical leave, thanked employees for their hard work in producing another successful quarter.

"With Oscar Munoz on medical leave, this leadership team and I are working to push forward the agenda we laid out over the past six weeks by focusing on our employees, improving our processes and investing in our systems to further improve our margins," Hart said in a statement.

Munoz, 56, was named CEO of United Continental on September 8 after the surprise ouster of Jeff Smisek linked to a federal investigation into allegedly inappropriate dealings with the New York regional transportation authority. Two other top executives also resigned.

Munoz is the former president and chief operating officer of CSX Corporation, a US rail operator.

"The United family has had a challenging few weeks, but we have never felt more unified and are committed to making the right investments in our people and providing them the tools they need to deliver excellent service to our customers," Hart said.