It was announced last week that royal princess Kate Middleton will be involved in the launch of a new ship from Carnival Cruise Line (CCL). In a horrible 2013 year, will Middleton's presence at a ship launch be enough to help the company and investors? In my opinion, the answer is no.
Middleton will be the "godmother" of the new "Royal Princess" ship. Kate will attend the ceremony that will officially name the ship before it sets off for tours in the Mediterranean region. Middleton will receive no compensation and will serve as a figure head more than an endorser.
The new "Royal Princess" will accommodate 3600 passengers. The boat will be completed on June 7th and showcased in the June 12th ceremony with Middleton. Highlights from the new boat include:
· Larger and expanded atrium with entertainment and casual dining options
· Largest top deck pool, complete with water and light show, Movies under the Stars screen
· SeaWalk with views 128 feet straight down
· Balconies on all outside staterooms
This move by Carnival is a smart one as Middleton Mania is in full effect. The six month pregnant princess is one of the most photographed women in the world. At the time of the ceremony, the royal baby bump will be in full effect and Carnival will be part of some free press and publicity.
While this endorsement is good for PR, I don't believe it will have the financial impact on Carnival that is needed at this time. If you need a reminder, Carnival took a PR hit in February when one ship caught fire and was stranded on the open sea. I wrote an article encouraging investors to sell shares of Carnival and avoid the leading cruise line.
The Carnival Triumph stranded 3143 passengers and led to horrid conditions that were spread across news outlets and social media outlets including:
· "Conditions are getting worse by the hour"
· "Cabin carpets are wet with urine and water"
· "We are having to sleep in the hallways"
· "We stood in line for four hours to get a hamburger"
· "Elderly and handicap(ped) are struggling"
Over a year ago, a disaster on the company's Costa Concordia killed 32 passengers. The disaster put the large $550 million ship out of service for the entire 2012 year. There are still multiple pending lawsuits against the company and the ship's officials.
Carnival is also investing a lot of revenue and cash flow into improvements to its cruise lines. While this is being done to help regain the company's image and help future disasters from happening, it will hurt revenue and earnings target for the next two years. Carnival is spending $300 million to upgrade fire safety and engine rooms on all its ships.
Carnival is also reimbursing the United States Coast Guard and Navy for its help in securing the ship and passengers from the Triumph. It is believed that this reimbursement was pressured by Senator Jay Rockefeller, who has called for tighter regulation on cruise lines.
Original estimates on Yahoo Finance called for Carnival to earn $2.42 per share this fiscal year. This came back in February at the time of the Triumph disaster. Today, analysts on Yahoo see Carnival earning only $1.98 per share in fiscal 2013. This $0.44 difference represents how bad of a year it has been for Carnival. The new estimates also give shares a high price to earnings multiple of 17.
Shares trade down 11% since my last article recommending selling shares. I still believe the full financial impact has not been accounted for and shares will continue to trade down for a two year period. It's still hard to believe that shares are up 13% from the Costa Concordia disaster. That ship still faces lawsuits and court cases that could take a year or two to complete and could hurt Carnival further.
Middleton is a great name to have on your side and can help companies. I wrote in an article how Middleton wearing Sebago shoes helped Wolverine World Wide's (WWW) sales of the brand and helped open stores in London. While Middleton's presence at the ship opening will be good for PR, it's too late to save Carnival for the time being. I continue to stay away from this cruise line operator.