Hong Kong-listed Star Cruises, the world's fourth-largest cruise operator, navigated the choppy waters following the September 11 terrorist attacks to post a sharp rise in net profit to US$22.96 million for the first half.
The strong performance, which compared with a net profit of US$628,000 in the same period last year, was propelled by a 15.7 per cent increase in the group's capacity.
The increase, mainly concentrating on United States-waters operator Norwegian Cruise Line, resulted in a 35.5 per cent increase in passenger days between January 1 and June 30.
Operating profit was US$82.09 million, 47.69 per cent higher than previously. Earnings per share rose to 0.55 US cents from 0.02 US cents. No interim dividend was recommended.
The net revenue yield per passenger, or profitability generated by each passenger after deducting travel agency commission and air tickets, stood at US$180 daily.
Chairman Lim Kok Thay said yesterday that this level compared well with US$185 daily per passenger before September 11.
''Given the encouraging trend, the net revenue yield is likely to go back up to the pre-attack level next year,'' Mr Lim said.
He said another 10 per cent capacity would be added next year to routes including from east coast cities Boston, New York and Philadelphia to Bermuda.
Norwegian Cruise was the first cruise liner firm to resume services after September 11.
It has since adjusted its services such as on-time schedule, dining and seating to allow passengers more flexibility.
So far, routes from the US west coast to Alaska were the most popular, Mr Lim said.
''We're optimistic about the future prospects for the US and China markets,'' he said.
He said Star Cruises was seeking to expand further in the mainland's fast-growing outbound travelling industry, which grew a year-on-year 31 per cent in the first half.
This year, the group would place a long-awaited order for four cruise liners at a combined budget of US$1 billion.
Senior vice-president Gerard Lim Ewe Keng said two smaller liners would be designated for China routes and the others for North American routes.
''The first of these liners is expected to be delivered in 2005,'' Gerard Lim said, adding financing would involve a mix of debt, equity and internal cash.