Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Can airlines survive $120 oil?

Here's a revelation. The airline industry is disappearing right before our eyes. And it doesn't even matter. They can merge all they want, they can try to cut costs through synergy, but the business can't survive $120 oil. The variable cost is 35% of their expense! That's not tenable and it is going higher. Fares have to double to make it up. That's just not tenable. The Dreamliner's a nice savings, but this American industry won't get there in time to be saved by it.

Last week we saw the big give-up, the departure of even the longest-term investors. The stocks are signaling that most of them will have to restructure through bankruptcy. They have done it before, but this time it doesn't matter. The fare increases have to occur, and they are such that the airline structures can't be profitable. It is one of those industries that can't stay afloat without massive federal subsidies, and that can't happen.

Don't be tempted to pick up these stocks if oil "swoons" down to $115. The airlines will rally, but they will need to do every bit of financing possible if a rally occurs.

This group has held an endless fascination on Wall Street from the first days it traded, yet the industry itself has done nothing but accumulated losses since it started. Find another industry to invest in! This one is not investible!

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