Some insurance companies could use a little devastation from hurricanes to show the resilience of their pricing policies. But cruise ship operators like Royal Caribbean (NYSE: RCL ) find the calm seas to have, well, a calming effect on revenues and profits.
The Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation reported revenues rising in great swells of 19% over last year. Profits also crested higher, with earnings coming in at $1.84 per share, well ahead of analyst expectations of $1.77 a stub.
Royal Caribbean says the strong quarterly results were the product of better than expected bookings leading to higher yields. This comes in the face of daunting fuel costs that have crimped many industries, but cruise operators have found they've been able to pass those costs along without suffering for it.
Last month, for example, it was a party atmosphere when Carnival Cruise Lines (NYSE: CCL ) rode booking prices to a 12% increase in third-quarter earnings, as did the big red boat division of Disney (NYSE: DIS ) . Add a 10% increase in profits at cruise ship spa operator Steiner Leisure (Nasdaq: STNR ) (which missed analyst estimates by two pennies), and you have some sturdy ships putting out to sea with a full wind in their sails.
Not all is smooth sailing here. There is a limit to what consumers will absorb in price increases before they start looking for other ways to travel. Last quarter, those fuel costs moderated growth somewhat and, if the economy continues to soften, the cruise ships will have to return to port.
Comparing Royal to Carnival, we see that both are priced by the markets similarly on a forward earnings basis. However, Carnival's operating and net margins are higher, and its debt-to-equity is lower by about half. Both lines are increasing their fleets, which has an impact on such ratios, but Carnival may find itself floating a little higher above the water line.
Regardless, as the hurricane season ends, the cruise industry will find that the better pricing environment in the Caribbean Sea will continue, and European travel will also show further improvement. A rising tide lifts all boats, and Royal Caribbean sits well in the water.
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