Forget revenue per available seat mile. Forget cost per available seat mile. And hey, who cares about those annoying food costs anyway?
Delta Air Lines
hit the big time yesterday and earned a special place in the history of airline finance when its involvement with
turned into a $1.2 billion investment overnight.
Because of its position as an inventory provider to the Internet-based booking company, Delta was granted warrants to buy 18 million shares at 93 cents each. These warrants are exercisable after the usual 180-day waiting period and after certain performance measures are met. priceline.com closed Tuesday at 82 7/8.
But Joe Kolshak, Delta's vice president of investor relations, says he thinks the airline will have no problem meeting the performance requirements attached to the warrants, based on sales levels already achieved using the Internet ticket distributor.
Of course, we're not going to discuss the wackiness of the fact that priceline.com is now capitalized at more than $11 billion, which is greater than Delta Air Lines itself ($9.85 billion). All of this is part of a totally different discussion -- one that frankly scares the bejeebers out of us.
But as we cast aside those dark thoughts, what other potential Internet-related nuggets do we see hidden away in the airline industry?
The most obvious place to look is
, parent of
and 82% owner of
Sabre, in turn, owns 100% of one of the two most successful Internet travel sites on the Web:
. Now, regardless of the fact that the site refused to work for us last Friday when we went in to test it for our Traveling with Wings column, the site is a major player in the Internet travel industry.
Travelocity reported total sales of $40 million in January, and in February it reported that it had two weeks during which sales exceeded $11 million. By comparison, priceline.com reported revenue of $21 million for the first two months of this year. And if priceline.com is now capitalized at $11 billion, what does that mean for Travelocity?
Well, we think this kind of comparison is off base. (I know, we are desperately trying to find some sense of normal
in these astronomical comparisons.)
However, Sam Buttrick, airline analyst with
, said in a research note yesterday that he would conservatively value Travelocity at $5 billion. Another analyst who preferred to go on background this morning valued Travelocity at $10 billion. Sabre itself has a market cap of about $5.9 billion.
While chatter continues to mount as to when or whether AMR will spin off the rest of Sabre and how much the company would be worth as a totally separate entity, we look for the tone of the chatter to change.
While Sabre says it has no immediate plans to spin off Travelocity, it would be nuts not to do so in the current environment.
According to the analyst we talked to this morning,
Considering that shares of TSG closed at 46 yesterday, it appears therefore that the market is placing little, if any, value on Travelocity. If we keep things simple and say that Travelocity is worth $10 billion, that this value represents all the upside to TSG stock, and TSG has 130 million shares outstanding -- this would work out to about 77 per share. This would put the value of the stock a little over 120. This is too big to walk away from. I fully expect Sabre management to announce an IPO of at least 10% to 20% of Travelocity sometime this year.
And the effect on AMR stock if this happens? Again, according to the analyst we talked to this morning, if we assume that shares of TSG are worth 120, this would work out to about another 74 per AMR share. So, if Travelocity is worth $10 billion, then TSG is worth about 120 a share, and AMR is worth about 120 a share as well.
But is it just us, or is anyone else out there uncomfortable about trying to assess the value of an airline stock based on its Internet relationships and investments?
Don't know about you, but while we understand the math, we're just not so sure we want to put our money into what the numbers are saying.
Holly Hegeman, based in Dallas, pilots the Wing Tips and Traveling With Wings columns for TheStreet.com. At time of publication, Hegeman held no positions in stocks discussed in this column, although holdings can change at any time. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. You can usually find Hegeman, publisher of PlaneBusiness Banter, buzzing around her airline industry Web site at
www.planebusiness.com. While she cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, she welcomes your feedback at