Since CCL’s last earnings report and subsequent earnings reports from RCL and NCLH earlier this year, many investors have asked what’s driving CCL’s yield underperformance. We think there are four main explanations, which we’ll explore, and we think there are solutions.
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Since the cruise lines reported 4Q earnings, bunker fuel prices have risen and FX hasn’t been helpful, either. We believe this is one key reason why the momentum in the group has cooled. Historically movements in fuel and FX have worked as a natural offset, so the unusual double headwind, or lack of offset, is not helpful for earnings or sentiment.
Timeshare stocks have rallied hard since the Christmas Eve bottom, with VAC up 61%, HGV up 33%, and WYND up 39% versus the S&P 500 up 19%. However, the stocks still remain well off their 2018 highs. For example, VAC remains 35% below its prior high and HGV remains 31% below its prior high, and it’s been entirely a function of multiple contraction. Interestingly, the S&P 500 is now only 5% below its prior high and credit spreads have narrowed considerably.
We aggregated pricing trends across multiple vacation options/destinations including cruise lines, Las Vegas casinos, hotels in multiple global markets, airline fares, Disney resorts, ski resorts, and rental cars. The purpose of our analysis was to compare pricing trends for cruises and Las Vegas casinos to alternative vacation options to understand if recent years of pricing strength may begin to make substitute vacation options more attractive, which some investors have expressed to us.
In the last five years the cruise industry has doubled ROIC through several initiatives. We believe one of the biggest factors responsible for this improvement has been a more disciplined mindset to pricing, as cruise lines have extended the booking curve and meaningfully reduced last minute discounting. We see opportunity to continue this evolution of improved pricing behavior through continued modifications to the deposit structure.
Earnings season has really just begun for our coverage, with only three companies reporting thus far (LVS, WYNN, and RCL). We have 10 observations to highlight with 10 charts, including takeaways from our earnings, read-throughs from other industries, and other non-earnings developments within our coverage.
This is a 35 page note we write each quarter where we update our thesis with new charts and preview each company into earnings. In this note we’re examining estimates and multiples during prior recessions as guides for possible downside scenarios. For our coverage we see binary outcomes: either a brewing recession or meaningful outperformance. The risk/reward setup to us seems more favorable for the latter, as our stocks seem to have already discounted a recession with over 50% likelihood, in our view, which we’ll show in the note.
CCL’s CEO, Arnold Donald, recently bought $1M of stock per a Form 4 filed mid-day today, with a purchase date of 12/26 after the Christmas Eve selloff for his trust. This follows a large purchase by RCL’s CEO, Richard Fain, about two weeks ago. It also follows a poorly received earnings report last week, and a stock that is now down 12% since the earnings print, and down 33% from the highs early this year.
We have three charts to highlight this week from some of our observations: 1) MAR’s EV/EBITDA premium to HLT has now been wiped out for the first time since the HLT spinoffs, 2) crude oil is down 38% from the highs and yet cruise stocks have also declined 26% over the same time, and surprisingly even underperformed other consumer discretionary names, 3) European PMIs have been soft and there are now incremental concerns about Europe following poor commentary from a few companies this week, so we show European sourcing for each company we cover.
CCL reported F4Q EPS this morning (12/20/18) (initial take here). The stock closed down 9% on poor yield guidance, exacerbated by a bad tape. Oddly, we are taking 2019 estimates up slightly because fuel continues to collapse, and CCL is unhedged. This is really the purpose of not hedging – revenue and oil are natural offsets – but right now the top line matters more than anything.
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