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Passengers of the Carnival Sensation, operated by Carnival Cruise Line, are seen next to the docked cruise ship in Cozumel, Mexico on June 6, 2019.

Jorge Delgado/Reuters

Carnival Corp. reported a record US$4.4-billion in quarterly losses on Thursday, as the COVID-19 pandemic crippled the world’s biggest cruise ship operator and forced it to take major write-downs on the disposal of now redundant ships.

The Florida-based company said it had US$7.6-billion available at the end of May, but was burning US$650-million a month as it awaits regulatory approvals for the resumption of some lines in the hope that customers will come back later this year.

The cruise business globally has collapsed after several liners, including some owned by Carnival’s Princess Cruises division, became coronavirus hotspots, killing some on board and forcing port quarantines for hundreds more crew and staff.

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The company said it hopes to resume operations in a phased manner but was resigned to cutting back on overall capacity and had already agreed to sell six of its ships.

The company’s shares fell 1.4 percent on Thursday as it revealed a roughly US$2-billion loss attributed to the difference in the sale price of the ships and their previously booked value.

Carnival, which in recent weeks had fully drawn down a US$3-billion credit line and issued US$6.6-billion in bonds and equity, said it was looking for further waivers on debt repayments that are due next year, without which it could breach certain loan conditions.

“The longer the pause in guest operations continues, the greater the impact on the company’s liquidity and financial position,” it said in its preliminary results for the quarter ending May 31.

Cruise lines normally get bookings six months to a year in advance and Carnival and its peers have steadily had to cancel, refund or rebook thousands of tickets for customers since the coronavirus outbreak first hit ships in Asia early this year.

The company said half of the guests affected by cancellations so far have requested full refunds, with the rest prepared to rebook. New bookings made in May for cruises in 2021 were down compared with last year, but were showing signs of improvement, it added.

Excluding one-time charges, Carnival reported a preliminary second-quarter net loss of US$2.4-billion, or US$3.30 a share.

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