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The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Avis Budget Group, Zipcar, United Rentals, Hertz Global Holdings and Southwest Airlines

Zacks Equity Research

For Immediate Release

Chicago, IL – March 12, 2013 – Zacks.com announces the list of stocks featured in the Analyst Blog. Every day the Zacks Equity Research analysts discuss the latest news and events impacting stocks and the financial markets. Stocks recently featured in the blog include Avis Budget Group Inc. (CAR), Zipcar Inc. (ZIP), United Rentals Inc. (URI), Hertz Global Holdings Inc. (HTZ) and Southwest Airlines Co. (LUV).

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Here are highlights from Monday’s Analyst Blog:

Avis to Close Zipcar Deal This Week

Global vehicle rental giant, Avis Budget Group Inc. (CAR) got the United Kingdom Office of Fair Trading’s clearance for acquiring the world’s leading car sharing network company, Zipcar Inc. (ZIP), on Mar 8, 2013. Both the companies expect the acquisition to complete in this week.

The deal has also received a clean chit from other regulatory bodies in United States and United Kingdom. On Feb 11 this year, Avis Budget has successfully completed the waiting period under the U.S. Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976.

Avis had agreed to buy Zipcar in Jan 2013 for a total value of $500 million. This strategic move will facilitate the company in expanding its offerings from car rental to car sharing and compete with rivals such as United Rentals Inc. (URI) and Hertz Global Holdings Inc. (HTZ).

To finance this deal, Avis completed a debt financing worth of approximately $525 million on Mar 8. The new debt , which consists of 2 components – senior notes and term loans -- carries a weighted-average interest rate of 5.1%.

In the first part, Avis‘ subsidiary Avis Budget Finance plc has closed the offering of its first ever Euro denominated senior notes worth EURO 250 million (nearly $325 million), carrying an annual interest rate of 6% and maturing at par in 2021.

In the second part, the company got a term-loan borrowing of $200 million carrying an annual interest rate of 3.75% and due in 2019.

Avis Budget believes that the acquisition will generate an annual synergy in the range of $50–$70 million. Further, we believe that the transaction will lead to increasing revenues and reduce costs by augmenting fleet utilization.

In the United States alone, car sharing is currently a lucrative business worth nearly $400 million and it is growing rapidly in other parts of the world. With over 760,000 members, Zipcar has presence in 20 major cities of the U.S., Canada and Europe.

We believe that by capitalizing on Zipcar’s strong network along with its leading-edge technology, Avis will definitely be able to boost its top and bottom lines.

Zipcar is engaged in operating car sharing network, providing self-service vehicles to members located in reserved parking spaces throughout the neighborhoods where they live and work. The company's vehicles are available for use through its reservation system accessible by phone, internet or wireless mobile devices.

Avis currently carries a Zacks Rank #4 (Sell).

Southwest Airline Traffic Slows


Consistent with its not-so-favorable traffic figures over the last three months, Southwest Airlines Co. (LUV) witnessed less traffic and capacity for Feb 2013.

The company’s traffic – measured in revenue passenger miles (RPMs) – was 7.06 billion for the reported month, down 2.3% from 7.23 billion recorded a year ago. On a year-over-year basis, consolidated capacity (or available seat miles/ASMs) moved down 3.1% to 9.30 billion. The results were negatively impacted by a drop in the number of passengers traveled and trips undertaken.

The load factor or percentage of seats filled by passengers, however, went up marginally to 75.8% from 75.2% in Feb 2012. Passenger revenue per available seat mile (:PRASM) also improved about 2.0% year over year.

For the first two months of this year, Southwest generated RPMs of 14.31 billion (down 2.0% year over year) and ASMs of 19.29 billion (down 1.3% year over year), while load factor was 74.2%, reflecting a decline of 60 basis points.

The top-notch passenger airline focuses on a number of initiatives to increase revenue and reduce costs in the coming months. Apart from fleet rightsizing, the company is concentrating on expanding its network routes.

Southwest fortified its foothold in the state of Missouri with three daily nonstop flights from Branson to Dallas Love Field, Houston Hobby, and Chicago Midway. There will also be nonstop flights to Orlando only for Saturdays. The company’s foray into Branson highlights the benefits from the acquisition of AirTran Airways that was operating in the aforesaid region since 2009.


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Read the analyst report on CAR

Read the analyst report on ZIP

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Read the analyst report on HTZ

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