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What's Ahead for the Big Four Airlines

Delta

Shares in Delta (DAL - Get Report) are trading almost exactly where they were trading at the start of 2009, when they opened the year at $11.31. So much for merger synergies!

But several analysts like the stock. Helane Becker of Dahlman Rose has a buy and a $16 price target. Mike Derchin of CRT Capital has a buy and a $19 price target. Analysts raised estimates two weeks ago after Delta reported surprisingly strong margins and revenue per available seat mile growth during the third quarter.

Opinions vary on whether Southwest's takeover of AirTran and its Atlanta hub will impact Delta. Stifel Nicolaus analyst Hunter Keay said Southwest will be far more aggressive in Atlanta than AirTran has been.

"We believe this could be problematic for Delta," Keay wrote in a report. But Baker said the impact will be minimal, writing, "It is difficult for us to work up a sweat on this topic."

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