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IAG cut to 'equal weight' by Morgan Stanley as ghost of Sir Freddie Laker returns to haunt old school North Atlantic carriers

It's 40 years since Sir Freddie's Skytrain ruffled the feathers of the established transatlantic operators and it looks like it could be happening again
Sir Freddie Laker
Sir Freddie Laker: so long ago, it happened in black & white

Seat capacity offered by long-haul low-cost carriers (LCCs) crossing the Atlantic has doubled in the past two years, spelling bad news for Europe’s legacy operators.

So says Morgan Stanley, which has downgraded British Airways owner International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (LON:IAG) to “equal weight”.

While acknowledging it is 40 year since Sir Freddie Laker’s Skytrain shook up the cozy cartel ruling the roost over the North Atlantic, the US investment bank says a new threat has emerged to that cartel.

“A new generation of carriers is taking on the legacy groups with a fresh twist on the low-cost, long-haul model. The rise of Norwegian, as well as the likes of Wow Air and WestJet, has forced the hand of the legacy carriers on both sides of the Atlantic into adapting their own business models to suit this new reality.” Morgan Stanley said.

READ: British Airways owner IAG posts record first-quarter performance

Capacity surge

The broker notes that fourth quarter schedules for this year point to a 30% year-on-year increase in capacity in the all-important North Atlantic market.

The deployment of new generation aircraft may help facilitate sustainable cost advantages for the LCCs or “no frills” operators versus the legacy alternatives and may see pressure on revenue per available seat miles accelerate in the near future.

“EU legacies [legacy companies] are likely to see most risk - with IAG the most exposed from revenue & traffic perspective - and we move to Equal-weight: IAG presently sees around one third of its revenues earned on the Atlantic market - compared to ~15-20% for remaining five Atlantic peers. Should we see even a 5% drop in Atlantic pricing/revenue this could impact our 2018 EBIT forecasts for IAG by 12% without accounting for additional Brexit/UK economy risks that may arise,” Morgan Stanley calculated.

The broker has a price target of €7, which is roughly 636p; the shares currently trade at around six quid.


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