4 Top Ranked Airlines Ready To Take Off

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Includes: AFLYY, CEA, DLAKY, SKYW
by: Zacks Investment Research

Airlines have been out of favor for decades, but over the past couple years, we have seen investors come back into the sector. A combination of baggage fees and lower oil prices has helped the airline business become more profitable and helped improve the bottom line.

Over the last month, we have seen the stocks of Hawaiian Holdings (NASDAQ:HA) and Virgin America (NASDAQ:VA) take off due to strong earnings and a buyout. This has brought strength to the sector in the form of sympathy, which has helped the airline ETF, the U.S. Global Jets ETF (NYSEARCA:JETS), beat the S&P this year. The industry is becoming a favorite of investors and is now ranked 57 out of 265 (Top 22%) in the Zacks Industry Rank.

Below I list four airline stocks that could be the next Hawaiian or Virgin. Whether it is consolidation of the industry or just solid earnings, these stocks are poised to move higher. Of the four stocks, three of them are based outside the U.S. and are traded as ADRs.

Air France (OTCPK:AFLYY) is a French airline company that is a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy). The company focuses on passenger transport, cargo transport, and aircraft maintenance services. The Paris based airline is a global leader in passenger traffic.

Air France has a market cap of $2.7 billion and a Forward P/E of 4. The stock sports a Zacks Style Score of "A" in Value and Momentum and "B" in Growth. It has a VGM score of "A" and has expected EPS growth of 29%.

Estimates for the company have been revised higher over the last 60 days. While there isn't much analyst coverage for the airline, fiscal year 2016 is seen at $2.17, up 340% from $0.56. In addition, fiscal year 2017 has been raised 62% from $1.44 to $2.33.

China Eastern (NYSE:CEA) is a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) that is involved in the Transportation Industry, and is the primary air carrier serving Shanghai, China's eastern gateway. The company has over 70,000 employees and a fleet of almost 700 planes.

The company has a market cap of $7.5 billion and a Forward P/E of 5. The stock sports a Zacks Style Score of "A" in Value and "C" in Momentum.

Over the last 60 days, China Eastern has seen earnings estimates revised to the upside for fiscal year 2016. Current estimates now sit at $5.89 versus $5.59 only 60 days ago, revision of 5%. Price has historically followed estimates, looking at the chart below we see the stock has room to run higher.

Lufthansa (OTCQX:DLAKY) is a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) that operates as an autonomous unit within the Lufthansa Group. It maintains its own stations, handling check-in, ticket sales and other services at all the major international airports. The company is based in Cologne, Germany, and has over 119,000 employees.

Lufthansa has a market cap of $7.2 billion and a Forward P/E of 5. The stock sports a Zacks Style Score of "A" in Value and Momentum and "C" in Growth. It has a VGM score of "A" and has expected EPS growth of 29%.

Estimates for the company have been revised higher over the last 60 days. The current fiscal year is seen at $3.67, up 8% from $3.39. In addition, next year's estimates have been raised 8% as well, from $3.00 to $3.24.

Lufthansa has been basing over the last year and a half. Improvement to margins could help the company beat on EPS when it reports on May 2nd.

SkyWest (NASDAQ:SKYW) is a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) that operates one of the largest regional airlines in the United States. Last year the company provided scheduled passenger and air freight services with approximately 3,600 total daily departures to various destinations in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. The Utah based company has over 700 aircraft and 20,000 employees.

Lufthansa has a market cap of $1 billion and a Forward P/E of 9. The stock sports a Zacks Style Score of "A" in Value and and "B" in Growth. It has a VGM score of "A" and pays a dividend of 0.85%.

Estimates for the company have been revised higher over the last 90 days. Fiscal year 2016 estimates have been revised 2.3% higher to $2.15 from $2.10. Fiscal year 2017 is seen at $2.42, up 2.9% from $2.35.

The company will report earnings May 5th where it will go for its seventh straight beat of EPS. The stock has seen a stretch of volatility, but the overall trend is up. Look for this trend to continue if the company continues to beat EPS.

In Summary

The airlines party is just beginning. Hated for better part of the last 30 years, the sector has found creative ways to increase the top line, while margins are improving the bottom line. This combination makes for growing EPS, making acquisitions and expansion to absorb growing demand more attractive. Whether it's the ETF or an individual airline, it is now the time to invest in the friendly skies.

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Editor's Note: This article discusses one or more securities that do not trade on a major U.S. exchange. Please be aware of the risks associated with these stocks.