Farley Cites Less Stellar Wave Trends

UBS Warburg analyst Robin Farley has downgraded her financial performance numbers and rating for Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCL) this year, citing the trend that both RCCL and competitor NCL's load factors are lower than last year and volume needs to improve. Farley says RCCL has alluded to a warm winter delaying some bookings. Given that the Mediterranean and Alaska are booking well, Farley believes the volume to make up may have to come from the Caribbean, where fares are typically lower. "We don't see a bad Wave Season, but we are seeing greater risk" in terms of the high end of the suggested performance for RCCL, she said, noting that the lines have not yet even begun to deal with the more challenging mid-August to October period, typically a sluggish time. So, she downgraded RCL stock from buy to neutral, while keeping Carnival Corp. (CCL) at "buy." "Over the next few yrs, we expect CCL to benefit from lower customer acquisition costs, disciplined building costs and European expansion that could help drive down costs down on a per-cruise-day basis," Farley told investors in a written note. Farley noted that following MSC's new build order this week, shipyards are full thru 2009, though Carnival has a hold on the final 2009 delivery slot. Farley believes it could be used for an order for P&O UK, or, perhaps a new small ship order for Seabourn.

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