Artisan Partners urges Southwest board to reevaluate leadership

EditorNatashya Angelica
Published 12/06/2024, 18:58

DALLAS - In a move highlighting shareholder activism, Artisan Partners (NYSE:APAM) Global Value Team, a division of Artisan Partners Asset Management Inc., has called for a reconstitution of the board and leadership changes at Southwest Airlines Co. (NYSE: NYSE:LUV). Artisan Partners, holding over 10.8 million shares, or approximately 1.82% of Southwest's outstanding shares, voiced their position following a similar statement from Elliott Investment Management L.P.

The investment management firm, through a letter addressed to Southwest's Board of Directors, expressed its concerns about the airline's current management and supported Elliott Investment Management's call for significant changes. Artisan Partners emphasized the need for an immediate reassessment of the company's direction to better serve its shareholders, employees, and customers.

The correspondence, signed by Managing Directors Daniel O'Keefe and Michael McKinnon of the Artisan Global Value Team, was made public on Wednesday, aligning with the firm's recent communications with Southwest's Executive Chairman. The letter suggests that Artisan Partners has been in discussions with the company for several months regarding these issues.

This development comes at a time when investor groups are increasingly willing to assert their influence on corporate governance, particularly in instances where they believe a change in direction could enhance value and performance.

Southwest Airlines, a major player in the aviation industry, has yet to respond publicly to the letter. The airline, known for its low-cost carrier model, has faced various challenges in recent years, including operational disruptions and competitive pressures.

The information regarding this shareholder initiative is based on a press release statement from Artisan Partners Asset Management Inc. It reflects a growing trend among institutional investors to take an active role in the companies they invest in, particularly when they perceive that doing so could lead to improved outcomes for all stakeholders involved.

In other recent news, Southwest Airlines has encountered a series of significant developments. Notably, activist shareholder Elliott Investment Management has acquired a nearly $2 billion stake in the airline, indicating an intent to advocate for changes to enhance the company's performance. This development has occurred amidst Southwest's financial struggles, further exacerbated by fewer than expected aircraft deliveries from Boeing (NYSE:BA).

Barclays has maintained an Equalweight stance on Southwest, following scrutiny from Elliott pushing for strategic changes within the airline. Southwest's financial results have been weaker than other U.S. carriers, leading to calls for a new approach to improve margins.

Likewise, a Melius analyst has upheld a Sell rating for the company, emphasizing the need for decisive actions to address current financial challenges. Southwest has also been downgraded from a Buy to Hold rating by both Argus and Jefferies LLC.

On a broader scale, the U.S. Treasury Department is set to gather a minimum of $492 million from upcoming auctions where it will sell warrants to buy shares in various U.S. airlines, including Southwest. These warrants were obtained as part of the conditions for COVID-19 relief aid provided to the airlines. These are recent developments that have occurred amidst a broader conversation about the airline's direction and financial health.

InvestingPro Insights

As Southwest Airlines Co. (NYSE: LUV) faces pressure from shareholders for strategic changes, the company's financial health and market position remain central to investor discussions. According to data from InvestingPro, Southwest Airlines holds a market capitalization of approximately $16.88 billion, showcasing its substantial presence in the airline industry.

InvestingPro Tips indicate that Southwest Airlines is trading at a high earnings multiple, with a current P/E ratio of 42.68, suggesting that investors have high expectations for the company's future earnings growth. However, looking at the adjusted P/E ratio for the last twelve months as of Q1 2024, the figure is more grounded at 19.47, providing a more nuanced picture of its valuation.

Despite recent challenges, analysts predict that Southwest will be profitable this year, and the company has indeed been profitable over the last twelve months. This aligns with the positive revenue growth of 7.6% in the last twelve months as of Q1 2024, indicating a resilient performance in a competitive sector.

InvestingPro also provides a wealth of additional metrics and insights, with a total of 5 more InvestingPro Tips available for Southwest Airlines, which can be accessed at These tips can further guide investors in understanding the company's financial position and market potential. For those interested in a deeper analysis, use the coupon code PRONEWS24 to get an additional 10% off a yearly or biyearly Pro and Pro+ subscription, enriching your investment strategy with valuable insights from InvestingPro.

This article was generated with the support of AI and reviewed by an editor. For more information see our T&C.

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