Citi raises Southwest stock target, keeps neutral stance

EditorAhmed Abdulazez Abdulkadir
Published 14/06/2024, 13:12

On Friday, Citi updated its perspective on Southwest Airlines Co. (NYSE:LUV), increasing the price target to $29 from the previous $27.50, while the firm maintained a Neutral rating on the airline's shares. The adjustment follows recent developments involving proposals from Elliott Management to revamp the airline's operational and financial strategies.

Southwest, which has faced various challenges since the pandemic began, is at a crossroads with Elliott's proposal to restructure the company's governance and revenue management. The proposed changes include the replacement of certain executives and board members, the introduction of baggage fees, and the implementation of assigned seating. Citi's analysis suggests that while these measures may lead to some improvements, they do not directly address the structural issues faced by discount carriers in the post-pandemic era.

The analyst from Citi expressed skepticism regarding the extent to which the introduction of new fees by Elliott could impact Southwest's customer traffic. The concern is that while the overhaul aims to improve oversight and revenue, it might not tackle fundamental challenges unrelated to management decisions. The effectiveness of the proposed strategy in enhancing the airline's competitiveness remains uncertain.

As the situation unfolds, Citi's current stance on Southwest Airlines remains unchanged, with a Neutral rating reflecting a cautious outlook on the stock's potential performance. The firm's revised price target indicates a slight increase in confidence in the airline's value, albeit tempered by the considerations surrounding the proposed strategic changes.

In other recent news, Southwest Airlines has been the subject of significant attention from the investment community. Notably, Elliott Investment Management has acquired a nearly $2 billion stake in the airline, signaling an intention to advocate for changes to address the company's recent performance issues. This development comes as Southwest Airlines faces increased costs and slower revenue growth, with operational challenges further exacerbated by fewer than expected aircraft deliveries from Boeing (NYSE:BA).

Barclays has maintained its Equalweight stance on Southwest Airlines, while a Melius analyst has maintained a Sell rating for the company. Additionally, Southwest Airlines has been downgraded from a Buy to Hold rating by both Argus and Jefferies LLC. These ratings reflect concerns about the airline's financial health and strategic approach.

In other company news, 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 Airlines. These warrants were obtained as part of the conditions for COVID-19 relief aid given to the airlines.

InvestingPro Insights

As Southwest Airlines Co. (NYSE:LUV) navigates strategic proposals and a changing industry landscape, investors may find additional context through real-time data and insights from InvestingPro. With a market capitalization of $17.0 billion and a notable revenue growth of 7.6% over the last twelve months as of Q1 2024, Southwest demonstrates a capacity for financial resilience. Despite a high earnings multiple with a P/E ratio of 43.35, the company's adjusted P/E ratio for the same period stands at a more moderate 19.6, reflecting a nuanced picture of its valuation.

InvestingPro Tips highlight Southwest's strong balance sheet, with more cash than debt, and its status as a prominent player in the Passenger Airlines industry. Additionally, analysts predict profitability for the company this year, which has been confirmed by a profitable performance over the last twelve months. These insights may offer investors reasons for optimism amidst the strategic challenges discussed by Citi. For those seeking further guidance, InvestingPro provides additional tips on Southwest Airlines, which can be accessed with the exclusive promo code PRONEWS24 for an additional 10% off a yearly or biyearly Pro and Pro+ subscription.

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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