Up in the Air in Chile

01/27/2010 5:15 pm EST

Focus: STOCKS

Jim Jubak

Founder and Editor, JubakPicks.com

Business isn’t good at LAN Airlines (NYSE: LFL), but it is getting better.

On January 26, 2010, the Chilean airline, which accounts for nearly 75% of Chile’s domestic air passenger traffic, reported fourth quarter 2009 net income of $109.8 million. That was an increase of 17.6% from the very depressed fourth quarter of 2008. In the third quarter of 2009, net income fell by 37% from 2008’s third quarter.

Total revenue in the fourth quarter declined to $1.07 billion from $1.11 billion in the same quarter of 2008 on a 1.6% decline in passenger revenue and a 10.7% drop in cargo revenue. (Passenger revenue makes up 71% of total revenue.) For all of 2009, revenue declined by 14.7% from 2008, while net income fell by 31%.

Look out for some volatility in the stock as winning billionaire presidential candidate Sebastian Pinera carries out his promised sale of his 26% stake in LAN Airlines before he takes office on March 11. A recent selloff in the Chilean peso, which hit a four-week low on January 25, had sent LAN’s stock lower this year by 5.7% until it rallied by almost 1.7% on the earnings news.

The stock is a member of my long-term Jubak Picks 50. If you’ve been looking to add shares of this play on rising air travel in Latin America (besides Chile, LAN services Peru, Ecuador, and Argentina) and on rising exports to the United States (LAN operates a big air cargo facility in Miami), this volatility might provide a good buying opportunity. For more on why you want to increase your exposure to emerging market stocks such as LAN Airlines, see this recent post.)

Full disclosure: I own shares of LAN Airlines in my personal portfolio.

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