WestJet Airlines Ltd. (TSX:WJA), one of the largest airlines in North America, has watched its stock fall over 26% in 2015. It now sits more than 29% below its 52-week high of $34.95 reached back in December 2014, but it has the potential to turn things around and be one of the top performers from this point forward. Let’s take a closer look at three of the primary reasons why this could happen and why you should be a long-term buyer of the stock today.
1. Its record financial performance could support a near-term rally
On July 28, WestJet released record earnings results for its three and six-month periods ending on June 30, 2015, but its stock has responded by falling over 6% in the weeks since. Here’s a breakdown of 10 of the most notable statistics from the first half of fiscal 2015 compared with the first half of fiscal 2014:
- Net income increased 43.4% to $202.29 million
- Earnings per diluted share increased 45% to $1.58
- Revenue increased 2.7% to $2.03 billion
- Total guests increased 3% to 9.87 million
- Revenue from guests increased 0.1% to $1.79 billion
- Other revenues increased 27.4% to $239.64 million, including ancillary revenues increasing 68.5% to $165.98 million
- Ancillary revenue per guest increased 63.4% to $16.83
- Earnings from operations increased 41.7% to $297.55 million
- Cash provided by operating activities increased 116.8% to $385.63 million
- Return on invested capital improved 230 basis points to 16%
WestJet also noted that the second quarter marked the fifth consecutive quarter with record net income and the 41st consecutive quarter of profitability.
2. Its stock trades at very inexpensive forward valuations
At current levels, WestJet’s stock trades at 8.2 times fiscal 2015’s estimated earnings per share of $3.01 and 8.3 times fiscal 2016’s estimated earnings per share of $2.99, both of which are very inexpensive compared with its five-year average price-to-earnings multiple of 13.9 and the industry average multiple of 16.9.
I think WestJet’s stock could consistently command a fair multiple of at least 12, which would place its shares upwards of $35 by the conclusion of fiscal 2016, representing upside of more than 41% from today’s levels.
3. It has increased its dividend for four consecutive years
WestJet pays quarterly dividend of $0.14 per share, or $0.56 per share annually, which gives its stock a 2.3% yield at current levels. A 2.3% yield may not impress you at first, but it is very important to note that the company has increased its annual dividend payment for four consecutive years, and its 16.7% increase in February puts it on pace for 2015 to mark the fifth consecutive year with an increase. Its strong operational performance could allow this streak for at least another five years.
Is there a place for WestJet in your portfolio?
I think WestJet Airlines represents one of the best long-term investment opportunities in the market today, because its record earnings results in the first half could support a near-term rally, because its stock trades at very inexpensive forward valuations, and because it is one of the top dividend-growth plays in its industry. Foolish investors should take a closer look and strongly consider beginning to scale in to long-term positions today.
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Fool contributor Joseph Solitro has no position in any stocks mentioned.