A Look at Leasing: Air and Rail

04/18/2014 7:00 am EST


Richard Moroney

Editor, Dow Theory Forecasts


We are finding an unusually high proportion of attractive profit-growth stories in the industrials sector, partly because of some broad trends impacting the US economy, observes Richard Moroney, editor of Upside Stocks.

Air Lease (AL) is catching the rebound in the airline industry. Sales growth has exceeded 20% in 11 straight quarters, while cash from operations has increased in each of the past eight quarters. Founded in 2010, the company leases aircraft to 79 airlines in 47 countries.

It has a strong presence in emerging markets, where airlines are expanding and replacing their aging fleets to meet rising demand for air travel. Air Lease receives favorable pricing from manufacturers by purchasing jets in bulk.

All 193 planes in its fleet are under contract, and Air Lease has secured contracts for 98 of its 327 planes on order for delivery by 2023. All 70 jets due for delivery in 2014 and 2015 are already under contract.

It has signed airline customers to $13.4 billion in minimum future rental payments, non-cancelable contracts that amount to 16 times Air Lease’s 2013 revenue. Air Lease, expected to grow per-share profits by 27% this year on 23% sales growth, is a Best Buy.

GATX (GMT) says lease rates on most of its tank cars stand at record highs and the current environment appears stable. The railcar industry faces more scrutiny following recent derailments. But many oil producers prefer rail transport over pipelines because it gives them more flexibility to sell to the highest bidder.

GATX ended the year with 98.5% of its North American railcars in use, matching its highest utilization rate since 2006. Of its 109,000 railcars in North America at the end of 2013, about 4,000 cars haul crude oil and ethanol.

In March, GATX paid about $340 million to purchase more than 18,500 boxcars from GE Capital. GATX expects the deal to add about $70 million to annual revenue, which totaled $1.32 billion in 2013.

GATX anticipates modest growth for its other businesses. International rail (17% of 2013 sales) should benefit from improving conditions in Europe. The steamship unit (14%) should see higher volumes, though ice coverage on the Great Lakes may have hampered March-quarter results.

Analyst estimates for the quarter are holding up so far, with the consensus projecting earnings of $0.77 per share, up 28% on 9% sales growth. GATX is a Best Buy.

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