Shares of Azul (NYSE:AZUL) were trading 6.7% higher as of 11:10 a.m. EDT Monday after some positive words about the Brazilian airline from an analyst. Azul looks like a winner coming out of the pandemic, and it appears to have opportunities to grow its market share.
Airlines were hit hard in 2020 by the pandemic, and Latin American carriers in particular faced a lot of financial turmoil and even a few bankruptcies. But Azul navigated through the crisis better than most, and is now well-positioned to consolidate some of its struggling rivals.
The stock has traded up in recent weeks on talk from the airline that it is looking at acquisition opportunities, and Azul has has been heavily linked to the Brazilian operations of bankrupt LATAM Airlines Group. A purchase of that carrier, or just its Brazilian operation, would give it control of more than half of the Brazilian domestic market, creating a duopoly with GOL Linhas Aereas Inteligentes (NYSE:GOL).
Bradesco BBI analyst Victor Mizusaki is excited about the opportunity. On Monday, Mizusaki upgraded Azul from neutral to outperform. The analyst believes an Azul merger with LATAM Brazil is "very likely," and estimates the airline could generate upwards of 9.5 billion Brazilian reals ($1.88 billion) in synergies from the deal.
Azul has shown itself to be a top operator throughout the crisis, and Mizusaki is right to be excited about the opportunity for it to consolidate its domestic market. But investors need to be aware of the risks involved as well. Operating from bankruptcy, LATAM can only do so much to defend itself from a hostile offer. But if Azul hopes to convince creditors to go with its plan instead of siding with management, it will likely have to make a bid large enough to force LATAM's hand.
Azul is unlikely to fly through this without experiencing some near-term turbulence, but for long-term investors, it would be hard not to like the direction the company is flying.