If you watch English soccer, you may notice that Delta Air (NYSE:DAL) has bought a lot of stadium signage.
There is a reason for that. It's a global battle for market share, and of all the remaining American airlines, Delta is in the best shape to win it.
Delta's deal to take 49% of Virgin Atlantic for $360 million is dirt cheap and positions the company well for what is to come. The deal brings with it limited landing slots in England, and should eventually lead to a complete takeover.
We're accustomed to comparing Delta to U.S. rivals like American, United and Southwest (NYSE:LUV), but this puts it into another league. The biggest profits are to be found on the longest flights, and there is a limit to how much of that is left in the U.S. market. Competing means going global, which means competing with Lufthansa, Emirates and such Asian airlines as Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines. Delta enters this phase of its evolution in much better financial shape than its European competitors, and taking the cream off their market can then let it fight toe-to-toe with its Arab and Asian rivals.
I know airlines are considered bad investments, but Delta has been slowly reducing its debt-to-asset ratio over time, it maintains over $3 billion in cash and equivalents, and it can handle more turbulence than many other companies in this space.
Delta is in much better financial shape than either American or United-Continental (NYSE:UAL), its prime competitors in the lucrative Latin American market, and this deal makes it even stronger in Europe. DAL stock currently has a Ford-like PE of 6.26, mainly driven over skepticism it can make a buck.
It can. Delta is heading higher in the new year.