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By Jared Levy
I recently found myself sitting in the warm Texas sun with a few beers, some of the best barbecue in Dallas and friends visiting from all over — Australia, Zimbabwe, South Africa and a few from the States.
Two topics kept coming up in our conversation: travel and the global economy. All of these friends travel the world regularly, and nearly all happen to be in finance or the travel industry, so they’ve got a bird’s-eye view of the international tourism climate.
They’re also all Millennials.
We all agreed that while much of the world’s economies are just skirting along, with central banks leading the tortoise-style growth race, people still have the means (and desire) to travel. And now, more than ever, access to travel is easier and cheaper.
Socially, the under 35 crowd is less eager to work or settle down and more compelled to explore.
To verify our thesis, we started scrolling through our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter feeds. It looked like we were on the right track. The vast majority of posts had to do with travel. Most of our peers seemed to be more concerned with showing off their selfies taken in foreign lands than they were about political issues.
It turns out our little social experiment is supported by tons of studies, including a recent Expedia (Nasdaq:EXPE) report that showed Millennials travel frequently, typically in groups, and don’t like to spend much money, but want to look like they did.
Immediately, I started thinking about how traders could capitalize on these trends. How does one travel on the cheap, look like they’ve spent a million bucks, and get plenty of photo ops along the way?
The first thing that came to my mind was cruise lines. For around $1,000, you can spend a week eating and drinking like a king, visiting exotic locations and making amazing memories (while posting about them on social media). Plus, cruises offer a generally safe environment where you can meet tons of other travelers.
With this in mind, I was curious to see just how the cruise sector was performing. I know global terrorism and the Zika virus scare had taken their toll, but it had been a while since I dug into the actual charts and fundamentals.
There was certainly a lot to love. And I found one company in particular whose shares have the potential for some serious upside. Its current forward price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio is near its 20-year lows, and analysts’ consensus price target is almost 50% above recent prices.
Then, something even more interesting caught my attention. Just last week, the company’s CEO — a position as “inside” as it gets — bought $3 million worth of stock, flat out.
These factors alone made for a convincing bullish argument. And the more I looked, the more I saw a deeply discounted stock that was too good to pass up.
Millennials Could Propel 50-Year-Old Cruise Line
Norwegian Cruise Line (Nasdaq: NCLH) is a brand with a stellar reputation. The company, headquartered in the United States, operates 14 ships around destinations like the Caribbean, Bahamas, Australia and New Zealand, just to name a few.
Norwegian, Royal Caribbean Cruises (NYSE: RCL) and Carnival (NYSE: CCL) essentially enjoy an oligopoly in the cruise space. Norwegian controls a little more than 9% of the market, with the other two accounting for a combined 71%.
This leaves a large portion of market share for Norwegian to potentially capture, especially when you consider that only 20% of Americans (and an even smaller percentage of Europeans) have ever taken a cruise.
To go after this untapped market, the 50-year-old company has been expanding its offerings and refreshing its fleet of cruise ships to bring vacationers a unique experience in this otherwise regimented space.
The combination of cheap prices and exotic locales makes cruises a perfect match for the Millennials’ modus operandi. My theory is that once Millennials take a small bite of the cruise experience, their social media prowess and ability to market anything and everything will help fuel the sector’s growth.
But this isn’t just about Millennials catching cruise fever. It’s also the story of a company that’s just too cheap to ignore.
Even Insiders Think Shares Are Cheap
While the S&P 500 is trading with a forward P/E ratio of 16, the cruise industry trades with an average forward multiple of only 15.5. NCLH trades at just 10 times forward earnings.
Concerns over the Zika virus and weakness in China have left analyst expectations extremely low. On top of that, Norwegian’s management took care to temper expectations during its most recent earnings report, warning of slower-than-expected growth.
But I don’t believe things are bad enough to merit a $36 price tag for shares of Norwegian… and neither does the company’s CEO, who recently committed $3 million of his own money to buy more than 83,000 shares at an average price of $36 per share.
And he’s not the only one thinking “Buy.” Despite the lowered expectations for the upcoming quarter, analysts have been abnormally bullish. Not one has a “sell” or even a “hold” rating on the stock. And the consensus 12-month target of nearly $53 is almost 50% higher than recent prices.
Given the large disconnect between what I’m seeing fundamentally and the stock’s current price, I believe we may see serious upside in the coming months, perhaps when the company reports earnings in early November.
I’m not looking for a complete turnaround in the stock right away, as NCLH still has some resistance to overcome on its chart. But shares could easily trade back up to the recent lows at $39.30. At this level, they would be valued at just 10.2 times forward earnings, which is still significantly below the industry average of 15.5.
The $39.30 target is about 10% above the stock’s current price, so you could certainly go out and buy shares to benefit from that potential double-digit upside.