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Why Did Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian Cruise Line Plunge This Week?

By Rick Munarriz - May 16, 2020 at 2:00PM

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All three cruise line stocks moved lower as layoffs and problematic quarterly results offset improving liquidity snapshots.

It was a rough week for cruise line stocks. Shares of Royal Caribbean International (RCL 1.56%) tumbled 6% for the week -- three times the market's slide -- and it's the relative victor among the three publicly traded cruise lines. 

Carnival Corp. (CCL 1.71%) (CUK 1.56%) shares moved 10% lower, held back by announcing inevitable job cuts for the world's largest cruise line operator. Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH 2.91%) was once again the biggest sinker, posting a double-digit percentage drop for the second consecutive week with a 12% drop this time around. An iffy quarterly report didn't help the cause for the smallest of the three cruising companies. 

An empty premium Havn deck on an NCL cruise ship.

Image source: Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings.

Rock the boat

The week seemed to get off to a good start with Carnival on the receiving end of an analyst upgrade. Ali Naqvi lifted his rating on the shares from hold to buy, encouraged by positive booking trends, plans to begin the first phase of sailings in August, and recent financing that should buy it enough liquidity to make it through at least November. Naqvi did slash his price target from $45.30 to $15.90, but that's what happens when you haven't updated a stock that has shed 75% of its value since its January peak. 

On the other end of the analyst spectrum, Jamie Rollo at Morgan Stanley warned on Monday that Royal Caribbean was going to need to raise equity at some point. Rollo, who had removed his rating on the stock given the industry's uncertainties, proved prophetic. Royal Caribbean wound up pricing $3.32 billion in senior secured notes in a private offering on Wednesday.

Norwegian Cruise Line also raised money this week, but the new secondary offering shares were priced at a steep discount to its market value. Norwegian would then offer up its first quarter results, posting a huge charge-saddled loss on a 12% decline in revenue. The next couple of quarters will be brutal, but this is also why all of the companies have been raising billions apiece in recent weeks. 

We're getting mixed signals on how passengers on cancelled sailings are taking the news. Norwegian conceded in Thursday's earnings report that more than half of guests on nixed cruises are opting for cash refunds instead of 125% in future credit. It's in line with the 55% of Carnival customers wanting their money back in March, but Carnival updated that metric this week by saying that just 38% of its cancelled passengers were asking for refunds.

These are still wavy days for the industry. Carnival announced layoffs, furloughs, and even the departure of its Seabourn and Holland America line presidents. It's not a given that passengers will be sailing on any cruise ship this summer, and even if they do, we don't know where consumer sentiment or the dicey economy will be.

However, with all three cruise lines raising a lot of money lately and signaling that folks are starting to make new cash bookings for next year and beyond, it's too soon to write off the industry right now.

Rick Munarriz has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Carnival. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Stocks Mentioned

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Stock Quote
Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.
RCL
$42.37 (1.56%) $0.65
Carnival Corporation Stock Quote
Carnival Corporation
CCL
$10.72 (1.71%) $0.18
Carnival Corporation Stock Quote
Carnival Corporation
CUK
$9.75 (1.56%) $0.15
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. Stock Quote
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd.
NCLH
$14.16 (2.91%) $0.40

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

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