Analyst Lowers Estimates on Cruise Line Operators

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Analysts at Wedbush Securities have weighed in on the three big cruise line operators: Carnival Corp. (NYSE: CCL), Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (NYSE: RCL) and Norwegian Cruise Line Holding Ltd. (NASDAQ: NCLH). Two of them face some immediate (and temporary) headwinds, but the analysts see calmer seas after the fourth quarter.

November pricing has remained about flat with October, with Royal Caribbean down 1%, Carnival up 3% and Norwegian down 4%. Pricing is expected to improve beginning in about four months, with growth running at 1% to 2% for Norwegian and 2% to 3% for the others.

Both Royal Caribbean and Norwegian recently announced Cuban government approval to begin trips to the island nation, but all three say that the initial benefit from opening up travel to Cuba is likely to be small.

Regarding earnings estimates for 2017, Wedbush analysts had this to say:

In total, our 2017 estimates for RCL, CCL, and NCLH are coming down $0.08, $0.12, and a penny. Combined, we estimate that since our last update, changes in fuel and currency have resulted in an incremental $0.14, $0.12, and $0.05 for RCL, CCL, and NCLH, respectively. These are being offset somewhat by a small tweak to yields stemming from the recent opening of Cuba to U.S. cruise operators. Versus the Street, we are now a penny ahead, $0.22 behind, and $0.07 ahead of the Street for RCL, CCL, and NCLH.

Here are the analysts’ comments on the three cruise lines’ valuations:

Our price target for RCL of $88 is based on 13x our 2017 EPS estimate, or 14.5x our 2016 estimate. We are using this 13x multiple as it is just below the average 14x multiple over the last 10 years.

Our 12-month price target for CCL of $54 is based on 15x our 2017 EPS estimate of $3.53 and equates to 16x our 2016 EPS estimate. The 15x multiple is roughly in line with historical multiples of 16x over the last 10 years and 14 times over the last five years.

Our 12-month price target for NCLH of $42 is based on 11x our 2017 estimate of $3.85. We are maintaining our NEUTRAL rating.

Wedbush rates Royal Caribbean an Outperform and Carnival and Norwegian as Neutral. Since the November election, Carnival shares have gained 5%, Royal Caribbean shares are up 11% and Norwegian stock is up 13%.

Carnival traded up about 1.8% Thursday, at $53.35 in a 52-week range of $40.52 to $55.77. The consensus price target on the stock is $55.99.

Royal Caribbean traded up about 0.3%, at $85.94 in a 52-week range of $64.21 to $103.40. The consensus price target is $92.72.

Norwegian was up about 1.8% as well on Thursday, at $44.81 in a 52-week range of $34.16 to $60.05. The consensus price target is $45.69.