There's been a lot of press lately about the recently IPOed Mexican airport operators Grupo Aeroportuario del Pacifico (NYSE: PAC ) -- let's call it GAP -- and this season's hottie, Grupo Aeroportuario del Centro Norte (Nasdaq: OMAB ) .
For my money, the favorite remains Grupo Aeroportuario del Sureste, known by the abbreviation ASUR (NYSE: ASR ) . I like it for a few reasons -- a longer record as a public company, one of the best investor-information sites I've seen, and, of course, its ability to generate cash on airport operations.
That cash generation was hampered for quite a while as a result of the big hurricanes that whipped the Cancun area late last year, knocking out a lot of the tourist infrastructure that used to attract the bulk of ASUR's revenue-producing passengers.
But things are finally looking up. Way up, in fact. This week, ASUR posted 109% passenger growth for November 2006 versus the prior-year period. The reason the jump is so huge, of course, is that last November the tourist trade was severely depressed by the continued cleanup.
That's why investors should be taking a look at these results as compared to the period from two years ago, and on that front, the news looks good. Despite the fact that the tourist trade still hasn't fully recovered, the November 2006 passenger total is 4.3% better than the same month in 2004. The figures for Cancun alone show a 5.2% gain between the two periods.
But it'll still be a while before ASUR is back to the baseline. For the year to date, 2006, total passenger traffic remains 2.1% below the level for 2004. And trouble spots like Oaxaca (where unruly protestors have shut down the city) remain a drag on the business.
Is the worst past? It seems that way to me, and to judge by the stock's rise this year, it looks like investors agree. Shares look fairly valued at these levels, but this is a business that scales well when passenger traffic increases, and with the winter travel season coming, online agents like Expedia.com (Nasdaq: EXPE ) pushing Cancun packages and new carriers arriving, like JetBlue (Nasdaq: JBLU ) , it's tough to call the top on this business. So for my part, I'll just sit tight, keep my seatbelt fastened, and enjoy the view.
ASUR is up 39% (vs. 11% for the S&P 500) since Seth recommended it to readers of the Fool's first International Report in March 2006. GAP is up 19% (vs. 8% for the market) since Bill Mann recommended it to readers of Hidden Gems. To see what kind of overseas opportunities Bill, Seth, and the rest of the team atMotley Fool Global Gainsare looking at, a free guest pass is available.
At the time of publication, Seth Jayson had shares of ASUR but no positions in any other company mentioned. View his stock holdings and Fool profile here. Expedia and JetBlue are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. Fool rules are here.