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2012 has been a year of rough seas for
Royal Caribbean Cruises(RCL - Get Report). Shares of the $6.5 billion cruise line shares have bounced between substantial gains to substantial losses several times over the course of the year.
And while shares currently sit on the upper end of the stock's range as we enter the fall, investors need to be aware of some less attractive attributes in this stock. RCL's cash reserves have been more than cut in half in the last year, down to 212.2 million.
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Royal Caribbean's No. 2 spot in the cruise industry is enviable, and so is the firm's lineup of brands. Besides its namesake line, Royal Caribbean also owns Celebrity Cruises and a handful of regional operators in Europe. But that positioning doesn't change the fact that RCL operates in a capital intense business with inconsistent margins and huge exposure to commodity prices. In the latest quarter, RCL only earned 9% more than its interest expenses before taxes. That's not a great sign.
Let's face it: Cruising is a business that's driven by consumer discretionary spending. With consumers still keeping a tight handle on their purse strings in 2012, RCL's cash burn isn't likely to abate in the near-term. The firm's balance sheet is already taxed. Don't get caught waiting for RCL to raise capital before selling.