Stock Market

Rebound Promise of Carnival Stock Leaves Many Once Bitten Twice Shy

Despite some positive news, it’s difficult to see why investors should direct their capital toward Carnival (NYSE:CCL) stock at current levels. CCL stock is down more than 14% in the last six months.

Carnival (CCL) cruise ship on water in front of beach with chairs

The company has seen some encouraging signs regarding its business operations, but the overall picture remains negative.

Further, as the pandemic wears on, investors are likely becoming increasingly frustrated with the promise of cruise stocks and reopening. A long time ago — that is, several quarters earlier — that narrative was more convincing. But disappointment after disappointment has emerged. And what do investors have now?

I’d assert that they have little more to be positive about than they did several quarters earlier, or even last year.

Industry Leadership is Telling

I believe that little has changed for many reasons. However, I think it can best be summarized by a quote from Norwegian Cruise Lines Holdings (NYSE:NCLH) CEO Frank Del Rio.

He recently gave his outlook on the future for his company, stating: “The world is opening up—more people are getting vaccinated, pent-up demand continues to be very, very strong for the sailings we’ve operated thus far,” Del Rio said. “I think, sequentially, through the end of 2022 and even into the first half of 2023, every quarter gets better.”

That’s the type of boilerplate response that has followed bullish sentiment around cruise stocks since March of this year. And the bigger issue is that although we have vaccines, things are roughly the same as they were back then across the cruise line industry.

In the case of Carnival, that means large, sustained losses.

Troubles Continue

In late September, Carnival posted third-quarter earnings which showed that not much has changed for the company. On a GAAP basis, things were almost identical in terms of third-quarter losses.

Carnival posted a $2.84 billion GAAP net loss in the third quarter, very slightly lower than the $2.86 billion GAAP net loss in Q3 ‘20. Essentially nothing has changed although we sit here a year later, with multiple vaccines and the same rosy outlook.

The good news — if it can be called that — is that Carnival reported that Q3 voyages were cash-flow positive. And while that is good news it doesn’t particularly matter because from a financial perspective Carnival is stagnating.

In fact, Carnival isn’t truly stagnating. The company would prefer to be stagnant from the perspective of net losses on the year.

That’s because Carnival recorded a net loss of $3.93 billion in the first three quarters of last year. In 2021 those losses have accelerated. The company reported $5.976 in net losses through Q3 of this year. That 52.6% increase in losses is easily understandable when you take into account that in 2020 things were normal for a good portion of Q1.

And Carnival therefore didn’t have nearly as great of losses through Q3 last year as it did this year.

But increasing losses are increasing losses. And that’s what makes it hard to see why some continue to recommend CCL stock on a promised rebound.

What to Do With CCL Stock

I can’t see any reason to buy Carnival stock right now. Analysts give it a $27.85 average target stock price. That’s a bit higher than where it trades at now, near $24. So, there’s money to be potentially made if they’re correct.

But over the past few months, fewer and fewer of those same analysts are giving CCL stock a buy recommendation.

The best thing to do is simply stay away from the name right now. The investors who made money on Carnival as a cruise rebound play did so at the very beginning of the pandemic. At that time shares had dropped below $10.

They’ve made out handsomely if they sold, and they’ll make out handsomely in the future if they’ve held on. But in either case, that was the opportunity to make a killing from CCL. Don’t fall for similar promises now.

On the date of publication, Alex Sirois did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the Publishing Guidelines.

Alex Sirois is a freelance contributor to InvestorPlace whose personal stock investing style is focused on long-term, buy-and-hold, wealth-building stock picks. Having worked in several industries from e-commerce to translation to education and utilizing his MBA from George Washington University, he brings a diverse set of skills through which he filters his writing.