Norwegian Cruise Line pricing weak, equity analyst says

By Tom Stieghorst

Norwegian Cruise Line’s prices are sagging, according to SunTrust Robinson Humphrey analyst Patrick Scholes, who reduced his 2014 earnings estimate as a result.

“Based on our survey data, we remain concerned about the persistent direction of pricing trends,” said Scholes, who downgraded his recommendation on the stock from “buy” to “neutral.”

Scholes said a periodic survey of pricing done in May showed prices down in the mid-single digits over the next 12 months. Advertised sailings 1-3 months out were down 5% from last year, an improvement from April, but the fifth consecutive month of decline, he said.

Prices for cruises 4-6 months out were down 6.5%, compared with 8% in April, the second month of decline, while prices 7-12 months out were down 6% for the second straight month.

Contributing to the declines was a narrowing of the premium Norwegian gets on its newer ships, Scholes said, with Norwegian Getaway selling for 3-5% less in May than other ships in the fleet that sail to similar destinations.

In addition, Scholes said onboard spending per passenger has been flat to down for three quarters “suggesting either the newer ships are not as productive as planned or the older ships are fading faster than expected.”

He reduced his 2014 earnings estimate to $449 million from $457 million previously.

Norwegian did not have any comment on the report, a spokeswoman said.

Separately, Scholes said Royal Caribbean International is on track to exceed its own forecast of profits for 2014, with pricing up double digits in May, according to survey data. Carnival Corp. prices were up 8% in May from a year earlier, “as the company laps the easy compares that resulted from the Carnival Triumph incident last year,” Scholes said.
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Follow Tom Stieghorst on Twitter @tstravelweekly. 

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