Singapore Airlines reported
its first quarterly loss in more than two
this week on the back of higher fuel costs, weak demand from
Europe, and increased competition from rapidly expanding Middle
One of the world's few five-star carriers, Singapore Airlines has
long found profitability catering to more discerning customers
traveling long-distances, such as from Europe to Australia,
taking advantage of its favorable geographic location as a
convenient transit hub.
However, the rise of Middle Eastern carriers like Emirates,
Etihad, and Qatar Airways and their similarly high levels of
service (but more advantageous geographical position --80% of the
world's population lives within an eight hour flight of the UAE
and Qatar) is starting to show signs of
affecting Singapore Airlines' bottom line
Singapore Airlines no longer maintains a duopoly on high-end
business and first class products along with Cathay Pacific,
which has resulted in an erosion in their pricing power and,
concomitantly, lower yields.
While this trend is worrisome for the world's second largest
airline by market capitalization, the primary driver behind the
company's loss is one familiar to all investors in the airline
high oil prices
. Even Middle Eastern behemoth
Emirates saw its profits decline this quarter
as a result of the elevated price of crude.
What can be extrapolated from this is that investors keen to
gain exposure to airlines in emerging markets should look to
airlines that are not just expanding rapidly but are also
profitable even in times of elevated crude oil.
In this case, investors should consider Copa (
) of Panama. This week,
CPA reported quarterly profits of $95.9 million
, or $2.16 a share. This is up only slightly from its previous
quarter's $2.14 a share, but in a much more challenging operating
environment. Growth remains robust, increasing 22% year over year
as the airline funnels travelers between North, Central, and
South America through its Panama City hub.
With a forward P/E of 9.75, the ability to remain
profitable with elevated oil prices, and a rapidly expanding
network, investors could consider CPA on a pullback.
Alternatively, if a trader sees oil prices going higher, creating
a pair trade by going long CPA and shorting an American carrier
that has abandoned fuel hedges like US Airways (
) could also make for a viable trade.