Spirited Buy Among Airlines

10/25/2013 7:00 am EST


Michael Cintolo

Vice President of Investments and Chief Analyst, Cabot Heritage Corporation

Our latest stock screen revealed a bunch of names that had been taking a breather during the past two to four months, but have now come alive on big, including one of the few airline stocks that has a true, sustainable growth story, asserts Mike Cintolo, of Cabot Top Ten Trader.

Airlines are far from our favorite group to invest in, but every now and then one pops up with a great growth story.

Our favorite, Spirit Airlines (SAVE), looks like one of those, as this low-fare airline is rapidly expanding its fleet to take advantage of the cutbacks among the big industry players.

During the past three months, the company's capacity (available seat miles flown) has grown 21%, 22%, and 25% from the year before, while passenger traffic has expanded 25%, 28%, and 29% during the same period.

That's great growth! And these new flights are full, with the firm's load factor totaling 85% in September, up a couple of points from the year before.

Throw in the fact that fuel costs have been somewhat stable, and ticket prices remain elevated, and you're seeing earnings perk up the past two quarters, with expectations for 20%-ish growth in the quarters to come.

We also like that management is running things conservatively—Spirit ended the second quarter with a whopping $525 million in cash and no debt.

This total's about 16% of the firm's current market cap of $3.1 billion, giving the company plenty of ammo for further expansion. Earnings are due October 30.

SAVE has done well during the past couple of years, but, as you'd expect in the airline group, there have been plenty of potholes along the way.

The most recent pothole wasn't too bad, a 20% correction during August, and then a lackluster bounce up through two weeks ago.

But SAVE's September traffic report, along with a hike in earnings guidance, sparked a big breakout—shares gapped up 15% on quadruple average volume and have kited higher since. We think a dip of a point or two is buyable.

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