Carnival Corp (CCL) Loses a Bull on Capacity Growth Concern

Analyst's decision to play it safe on Carnival has also led other cruise lines to dip in the market today.

In a domino effect, not only has Carnival Corp (NYSE:CCL) taken a roughly 5% stumble today after Credit Suisse analyst Tim Ramskill ran from the bulls to the sidelines on the cruise player, downgrading from an Outperform to a Neutral rating on CCL shares, but fellow rivals like Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and Royal Caribbean Cruises have likewise fallen in a tidal wave.

Some had been encouraging to invest in cruise lines despite share weakness incited from the wrath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, even despite the upside that would stand in the wreckage, believing hurricane pullbacks translated to compelling buying opportunities at hand.

Why would Ramskill get cautious on a stock that had been outperforming the S&P 500 in 2017, yielding an impressive 34 in returns? “Capacity growth,” says the analyst, who finds this is a looming apprehension pointing to the demand risk factor.

As a result, the analyst now calls for 6.1% capacity growth between now and 2022. For 2018, the analyst reigns in yield growth expectations in half from 3.0% down to 1.5% while slicing his EPS forecast by 10% (a chop comprised of 7% on yield and 3% on elevated fuel costs).

“Whilst this is little changed and similar to history (2000-17E 5.7%), the absolute level of capacity growth in 2018-21E is double the last 5 years. We had been comfortable with that supply growth given strong near term demand trends (with bookings at record levels) and structural opportunities for growth in EM. However, we highlight increasing demand threats for 2018E from the top 3 cruise markets. 1) Caribbean (39% of global pax) post Hurricane Irma with 24% of the region potentially severely damaged (measured by pax volume) plus 2005 a proxy when EPS downgrades were 10%; 2) Mediterranean (14% of pax) post the Barcelona terror attacks given it is the #1 cruise port in the region and the 60% decline in Eastern Med volumes seen since 2011 (i.e. Athens/Turkey) and 3) China (12% of pax) with the Korea travel ban still in place and the industry planning to trim capacity by 5% in 2018E,” concludes Ramskill.

The preliminary word on the cruise player points positively to the stock, as TipRanks analytics indicate CCL as a Buy. Based on 2 analysts polled by TipRanks in the last 3 months, both rate a Buy on Carnival stock. The 12-month average price target stands at $75.00, marking a nearly 15% upside from where the stock is currently trading.

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