Cruise stocks moved up with the market today, but Royal Caribbean Cruises (RCL) stock remained flat after the company announced its third quarter results and forecast on Tuesday. While RCL’s posted net earnings of $230.4 million, that was down 44 percent from last year, on a 15 percent drop in year-over revenues for Q3. The forecast for Q4 is for a loss of $0.05 per share, following a loss in Q2 as well. Adding to the uncertainty, Royal Caribbean did not offer an earnings guidance for Q1, except that it expects both Q1 and full-year 2010 yield increases, citing market volatility, weak demand for Mexican Riviera cruises and from the southern Florida and Spanish markets, which have been hit harder by the economic downturn. In addition, RCL also has more products in so-called emerging markets than before, and these sometimes take time to build up.

Among the analysts that follow the industry, at UBS Investment Research, Robin Farley is forecasting earnings per share of $1.26 for 2010, up from her previous estimate of $0.87, due to fuel cost revisions. At Barclay Capital, Felicia Hendrix is forecasting $1.50, up from her previous guidance of $1.36, driven by yields and fuel. Hendrix described the company as a “show me” stock until it can demonstrate a more accurate estimate guidance.

At Susquehanna Financial, Robert LaFleur wrote that Q3 results were strong, but Q4 guidance disappointing. While there are no clear signs of recovery in booking patterns, according to LaFleur, trends are stable, and he is increasingly confident about 2010. His earnings estimate for 2010 is $1.60.

Tim Conder, at Wells Fargo Securities, is forecasting earnings per share of $1.58 for 2010, noting that fundamentals are continuing to improve and that new ships will benefit yields and costs.

Twelve-month price targets for RCL range from $18 to $24 among these analysts, compared to today’s stock price of $21.30 and a street price target of $22.04. RCL stock price has moved from a low earlier this year of $5.40 to a recent high of $25.02.

So far the halo effect of Oasis of the Seas has had little impact on the stock price, and RCL executives responded to reports that the initial cruises are not sold out, by saying that is intentional, as they insist on maintaining their price integrity. The demand will pick up, they said, as the publicity builds up once the ship is introduced. The first revenue cruise is Dec. 1.

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