Cruise stocks have been decimated by the COVID-19 crisis but while there are seemingly bargain basement prices out there for names like Carnival Corp (Carnival Corp Stock Quote, Chart,News NYSE:CCL) and Norwegian Cruise (Norwegian Cruise Stock Quote, Chart, News NYSE:NCLH), investors can find much better ports during the storm, says Lorne Steinberg, president of Lorne Steinberg Wealth Management.
“I have to say we’re not a buyer of cruise line stocks in this market since their business is basically zero,” says Steinberg, speaking on BNN Bloomberg on Tuesday.
“Carnival is the biggest and the best in the business with multiple brands and they just raised $6 billion. So, if I were going to buy one I think I would buy Carnival because they now have the capital to ride this out,” Steinberg said.
“But I have to say there are probably easier places to invest in,” he said.
The last cruise ship from a major company made it to port on Tuesday near Genoa, Italy, after a round-the-world voyage that began on January 5. No reports of COVID-19 infection were said to be on board the ship which was operated by an Italian subsidiary of Carnival Corporation.
The event marks the end of a harrowing period for cruise lines which saw ships refused entry into ports worldwide over the last few months as fears mounted concerning the spread of COVID-19 on cruise ships.
But the future of the industry is in question now, with all companies having shuttered business in wait of the end of the pandemic and the hopeful return of passenger bookings.
Carnival, the world’s largest leisure travel company, is under the microscope for how it handled the COVID-19 crisis, with criticism falling on the company for putting ships to sea knowing that the virus posed a risk to passengers and crew.
Carnival’s $5.5-billion capital raise puts the company’s cash position at about $7.6 billion, likely enough to keep the $6-billion market cap company afloat for now but a industry-wide closure for most of 2020 could put it and other cruise companies in bankruptcy positions. So far, Carnival has cancelled all cruises until June 26.
For its part, Norwegian Cruise Line is still exploring financing options, while competitor Royal Caribbean Cruises secured a $2.2-billion loan in March. Importantly, cruise companies have so far been left out of the US government $2-trillion economic stimulus package, meaning there won’t be a federal bailout in the offing.
Both Carnival and Norwegian have seen their share prices plummet in recent months. Carnival is down 73 per cent since the start of February and Norwegian is down a full 80 per cent over the same period.
Steinberg said the risks in bargain hunting in cruise ships is too great.
“I think the problem is these are, for the most part, one-dimensional businesses, and if this COVID situation goes on longer than anticipated those companies will have zero revenues. We’d rather buy companies that will have some revenues,” Steinberg said.
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