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Norwegian Cruise Line CEO Outlines Earnings Beat Strategy

Stocks in this article: NCLH CCL RCL

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Norwegian Cruise Line's (NCLH) second quarter demonstrated that the company's investments in new ships and fleet modernization are paying dividends.

Adjusted earnings per share came in at 58 cents, a penny above Wall Street expectations.  The result represented the seventh consecutive quarter in which Norwegian Cruise Line surpassed consensus earnings expectations, based on data compiled by Bloomberg

Net revenue growth clocked in at 18.9% year over year, below consensus estimates for 23.7% growth, marking the fifth straight quarter that Norwegian Cruise Line was light in terms of revenue.  The revenue shortfall could be attributed to what chief executive officer Kevin Sheehan characterized a "promotional environment," likely in the Caribbean market, which led to on-board revenue growth outpacing ticket growth.

In the second quarter, ticket revenue rose 17.59% year over year, compared to on-board revenue that gained a more impressive 22%.

Watch More: Video Interview Exclusive: Domino's Pizza CEO Says Big Ideas are in the Oven

In an interview aboard the Norwegian Breakaway earlier this month, Sheehan shared what precisely the company is doing to deliver the aforementioned improved results to shareholders. The investments involve upgrading dining amenities, focusing on premium lodging experiences on the ship, and reducing fuel consumption through hull redesigns and other measures.  For example, in the second quarter, Norwegian's fuel consumption per capacity day declined 5.1%.

"I think what you find is that people, they see the brands they know, and then are more comfortable, then they engage, and hopefully while they are having a good time, spend a little more," Sheehan said. The CEO said Norwegian has been bringing land-based experiences that customers easily identify with on board its ships.

From a lodging perspective, Norwegian's super premium option "The Haven," offers vacationers to what amounts to a private island on a floating vessel. "There is a separate pool, concierge, butler, gym facilities, spa facilities, you're treated like a superstar, even though in everyday life some of us aren't superstars," Sheehan said when asked to describe the experience in this secluded portion of the ship.

Where these investments are appearing most acutely are in the revenue and profitability measures of the company. Revenue growth for Norwegian Cruise Line has ranged from 19.3% in the fourth quarter of 2013 to 18.9% in the second quarter of 2014, more than four times that of larger rivals (based on market cap) Carnival Corp. (CCL) and Royal Caribbean (RCL).

Further, Norwegian Cruise Line has the highest return on equity amongst its competitors according to Bloomberg data at 9.96%, versus 4.58% for Carnival Corp. and 6.24% at Royal Caribbean.

Watch More: Video Interview Exclusive: The State of the Cruise Industry, as Seen by Norwegian's CEO

Four new ships are set to arrive in the fourth quarter of 2015, first quarter of 2017, the second quarter of 2018, and the fourth quarter of 2019 for Norwegian Cruise Line, enhancing the company's position as operating the youngest fleet of cruise vessels in the industry.

Considering this, and the upgraded experiences likely on each of those new ships that will support solid revenue and earnings growth, Norwegian Cruise Line shares, valued at 12.3x estimated forward earnings, a discount to Carnival Corp. at 15.07x and Royal Caribbean at 14.4x, look attractive.

At the time of publication, the author had no positions in any of the stocks mentioned.

This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.

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