Alex Planes, The Motley Fool:
It’s little surprise that the company has failed to recapture pre-recession highs, as its key metrics look worse than they did before the crash. Free cash flow, again erratic over the five-year period, is up just more than 4% from 2007, although Carnival spent a lot of time in 2009 and 2010 cash-flow negative. Royal Caribbean, on the other hand, grew revenue at a faster rate and barely managed to eke out positive profit growth after an atrocious 2010.
Since the tragic disaster of the Costa Concordia in January and the subsequent fire on the Allegra, the key factor hasn’t been what Carnival was going to do to get customers back on its cruise ships, but what could be done to improve the image of Carnival CEO Micky Arison.
My primary beef with Mr. Arison was his delayed response (more than one week, according to The Wall Street Journal) to the Costa Concordia tragedy and his lack of response just six weeks later regarding the fire on the Costa Allegra. He seemed concerned more with the Miami Heat, which he owns, than Carnival Cruise Lines, leaving shareholders as an afterthought.
The one disaster that captured attention like the Costa Concordia in recent memory was the BP (NYS: BP) oil spill. The stock plunged, there were boycotts, and it seemed like the world would end for BP. Even the executive incompetence mirrors Carnival. But BP’s stock has rebounded despite the massive costs of the oil spill. I’m afraid shorting Carnival now would be like shorting BP at the bottom, which would have ended in a losing bet.