Every week, I pack a parachute for this column, bailing out of a stock that I feel has hit an uneasy altitude. But on my way down, I'll also offer three perfectly worthy potential replacements.
Who hits the silk this week? Come on down, AMR
Read 'em and weep
The parent company of American Airlines reports tomorrow, and I doubt shareholders look forward to booking that flight. Rival UAL
The carrier was one of the few to post year-over-year traffic declines last month, and fuel prices are climbing. (Crude oil hit a fresh 52-week high of $80 a barrel this morning, before retreating.) In other words, the situation is ugly and getting uglier.
AMR is probably two years away from turning an annual profit, and that will still be a challenge. As a legacy carrier, AMR's cost structure is out of whack with nimbler carriers, who are either posting profits or at least running reasonable deficits.
American Airlines is still built for corporate travel, and that's a big problem on many different levels. Despite the rise of global business and a growing economic turnaround, videoconferencing technology and online connectivity are curbing the demand for jet-setting business class passengers. There will always be a need for some form of human interaction, but it's just no longer a savvy tactical decision to bottle up executives in productivity-sapping flights for the sake of client maintenance or employee morale boosts.
AMR's share price has tripled since bottoming out in March, but its fundamentals aren't much brighter. The legacy carrier has been sharp enough to avoid bankruptcy in the past, and it has been prudently raising cash to make it through these lean years. However, it just doesn't have any catalysts for growth.
Analysts see sleek competitors Southwest
AMR's path has been bumpy lately, and there's no reason to think the turbulence will get any better.
As I do every week, I don't talk down a stock unless I have three alternatives that I believe will outperform the company getting tossed. Let's go over three new fill-ins.
If you want to buy a globetrotting juggernaut, it helps if you go abroad. Brazil's TAM is in a good groove. Remember AMR's traffic decline in September? TAM posted spikes in domestic and international demand and supply, improving its load factor along the way. Stateside legacy carriers may be struggling this year, but TAM posted healthy profits in each of its first two quarters.
Why buy an unprofitable carrier? JetBlue has turned the corner this year to become a low-cost leader. I'm a fan of the experience after four flights on JetBlue, where passengers are treated to satellite television, satellite radio, and unlimited snacks. If things improve for the stodgier legacy carriers, it will only mean even better things for the nimble JetBlue.
I was tempted to go with Southwest for the last slot, but I figured I'd pick another international play. eLong is an online travel portal in China. It's a lot smaller than the more successful Ctrip.com
Sorry, AMR. It's time to fly with these other stocks.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz always takes out the garbage. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this column. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.