Editor's note: This story has been updated to incorporate management remarks that were not available at the time of first publication and correct the hypothetical impact of the contract.
Happy are those who purchased stock in 56-year-old World Airways
At least if they got out early this morning.
The tiny charter outfit usually trades under a half million stubs per day, but it had already traded 25 times that volume before noon this morning. The microcap's market value also increased nearly 60% to more than 70 million bucks.
Word was that the firm was going to make a hefty collection on the wages of war. A Reuters story, based on a Department of Defense press release, claimed that the firm had broken out of the field of its normal competitors such as ATA Holdings
Investors were jazzed by the prospects of a deal that looked like a 50% increase of last year's $474 million in revenues. And with good reason. A back-of-the-napkin estimate of the earnings impact, assuming the same, 2.7% net margin as the last 12 months, comes to $0.86 per share justfrom this deal. Not bad for a firm that put up $1.08 per share all of last year.
But then the billion vanished, or was divided by 10.
Around 1:00 p.m., World Airways sent out its own release, noting only that it had received a renewal contract from the Air Force in the amount of $94 million. True, similar past contracts have yielded significant extra income, including $189 million so far this year, but that's a far cry from the $730 million windfall reported this morning.
For those of you unfamiliar with World Airways, this is a company with only 16 wide-body airplanes. If the DoD contract turned out to be real, you'd have to wonder whether the firm would be able to service its other regular customers, including the Buffalo Bills and the Jacksonville Jaguars.
At the time of publication, no one from the DoD had returned my calls to clarify the situation. However, World Airways CEO Randy Martinez did tell me he "was caught by surprise." "Frankly," he said, "I think it's misleading. I have no idea where they came up with those numbers."
Upon contacting the Air Force Mobility Command today, the firm was given approval to release the information on only the $94 million fixed passenger contract, which is actually smaller than the $125 million share the firm received last year. "The important thing," Martinez said, "is that this is going to be another busy year."
For the time being, just put this on your watch list. As my Foolish colleague W.D. Crotty has pointed out, this is a profitable small company that manages its costs and aims for measured growth. It's worth a look even without the extra $730 million.
For more Foolish flying commentary:
- See why major airlines will fail.
- Do air carriers have something to learn from Dell
- Air couriers have been flying high.