Spirit Airlines (SAVE): Zacks Rank Buy


I can't believe I'm writing about another airline but Spirit Airlines (SAVE) has game. It is expected to post double digit earnings growth in 2012 and is also a value stock. This Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) has a forward P/E of just 10.5.

Spirit Airlines is a low fare airline operating 190 daily flights to over 50 destinations in the U.S., Latin America and the Caribbean.

May Traffic Rose

On June 11, the company reported its preliminary traffic results for May.

Traffic (revenue passenger miles) rose 11.4% over a year ago on a capacity (available seat miles) increase of 13.7%. Load factor fell 1.7% to 84.3%.

'The demand and pricing environment remains favorable and we're pleased with the strength we are seeing in forward bookings,' said Ben Baldanza, President and CEO.

Operating Revenue Rose 30% in Q1

On May 1, Spirit reported its first quarter results and met the estimate of 32 cents. It has only been a public company about a year so it doesn't yet have a long earnings track record. However, it surprised on the estimate the three prior quarters.

Operating revenue rose 30% to $301.5 million from a year ago. It was boosted by increased capacity (available seat miles) and new capacity in Dallas-Fort Worth, Chicago and Las Vegas.

Total revenue per available seat mile rose 10.1% to 11.65 cents from the first quarter of 2011 primarily due to higher operating yields which climbed 9.1% and a load factor which rose 0.8 points to 84.8%.

Cash Rich

Spirit is one of the few airlines that has plenty of cash. At the end of the first quarter, it had $420.8 million in unrestricted cash and cash equivalents.

As of the end of the first quarter, it also had no debt on its balance sheet.

2012 Zacks Consensus Rises

The analysts are bullish about this airline in 2012 as 3 estimates have been revised higher in the last 30 days.

That has pushed the 2012 Zacks Consensus Estimate to $1.94 from $1.89.

That is earnings growth of 32% as the company only made $1.47 in 2011.

A Value Stock

Shares have recently retreated from their 2012 high which makes it even more of a value.

In addition to a P/E under 15, it also has a price-to-book ratio of 2.8. A P/B ratio under 3.0 usually indicates value.

The company also has other attractive characteristics such as a 1-year return on equity (:ROE) of 21.4%.

If you're looking for an airline with both growth and value, you don't have to look much farther than Spirit.

Tracey Ryniec is the Value Stock Strategist for Zacks.com. She is also the Editor of the Turnaround Trader and Insider Trader services. You can follow her on twitter at @TraceyRyniec.

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