Hello everyone. I feel like I need to crank up the theme song from “Rocky” tonight. Yes, it’s earnings week here at the Worldwide Headquarters of PlaneBusiness Banter. Or rather, the first of three heavy earnings weeks. Or is it four? Oh, they are so much fun — who’s counting?
This week Alaska, United Continental, AMR and US Airways in-depth earnings reviews are on tap for PBB readers. I know it’s hard to believe, given how long some of our earnings reviews have run in the past, but I do believe we may have posted our longest earnings review ever tonight. Alaska’s call attracted a lot of analyst attention and they all asked a lot of great questions.
That’s what happens when you are an airline and you post a fantastic pretax margin, operating margin, and an even more impressive ROIC. (That’s return on invested capital for those of you who are not financial geeks.)
Funny. I can remember quarters in the past when Alaska executives would give their presentations on the airline’s earnings call and there were hardly any analysts on the calls asking questions. I used to feel sorry for them.
Things change when you begin running one of the most profitable and well-run airlines in the U.S.
American Airlines? Oh. Earnings. Did the airline report earnings last week? Kind of hard to remember what with all the hoopla the airline generated about its split Airbus/Boeing order of an entire fleet of aircraft. Actually I’m sure the airline would prefer that nobody remembered that they also reported 2Q earnings. And we’ll talk about why that is the case.
No question American would much rather we talk about nice new shiny airplanes.
One thing’s for sure. Wall Street was not happy with the news about all the nice new shiny airplanes. We give readers a selection of analyst comments to pour over this week — and the gist of the feedback goes something like this: new airplanes do nothing to change the underlying problems with the current business model or the brand. Or the operational issues. Or the cost issues. Or the continued less-than-industry peer revenue performance.
Much less mounting cash flow issues.
Bu they, don’t worry, be happy. I sometimes think that AMR management is convinced the airline is simply “too big to fail.” That’s a somewhat dangerous assumption to make. Just ask Lehman Brothers.
United Continental is, of course, still in its transition mode, but so far so good. The airline’s revenue performance was good in 2Q, but I suspect we are going to see the airline’s revenue performance get even better over the next 12 months. My biggest concern with United Continental remains its continuing labor negotiations. Particularly the ones involving the airline’s two pilot groups.
Then there is US Airways. Even without fuel hedges, the airline still posted a profit for the quarter. All things considered, that’s not a bad thing. However, US Airways also happens to have a rather dysfunctional pilot union that still can’t negotiate a seniority agreement, much less a contract. Last week that same union decided to go public with its “safety” concerns at the airline. Uh-huh. Everything new is old again, isn’t it?
We also talk about other things this week of course. But I won’t spill the beans. That will just have to be a surprise.
Subscribers can access this week’s issue of PlaneBusiness Banter here.