Does Jetblue Look Like a Value Play Here?

jetblue logo on tail of jetblue plane

What if you heard about a stock that provided you with nearly zero downside risk while potentially promising you an 80% upside? What is it? Here's a hint: it is one of the most beaten-down names within a list of airline stocks, one that is set to ride the domestic travel wave higher than others.

With a strong dollar, domestic travel has taken a back seat as consumers choose to spend their money overseas, where their buck goes a longer way. However, as the market begins to turn and the FED weighs policy changes going into 2024, this trend might reverse.

You can see the tides turning with the latest GDP expansion. This is trickling down its benefits into the consumer discretionary space, and placing some companies at the top of the bullish list. Well, today, you might as well add JetBlue Airways (NASDAQ: JBLU) to that list. It could even be your favorite.

The odds are in your favor

In a true value investor fashion, in the likes of Warren Buffett and Mohnish Pabrai, your job in today's uncertain market is to find deals that offer the ultimate tradeoff: Tails you win, heads you don't lose much. Tipping the risk/reward scale in your favor is what JetBlue can do for you today.

When looking at the company's financials, you will notice something that the average investor may miss when performing due diligence. Net property and equipment, after depreciation and amortization, will be the critical pillar here.

At $9.1 billion, the value of their PP&E (property, plant, and equipment) alone is multiples higher than their current market capitalization of $1.4 billion. Even after subtracting the total debt of $4.5 billion, the net value of $4.6 billion is still higher than the market capitalization today.

Translation into plain English? Pretend you see a car listed on a sales platform, like the ones that will likely rally after UAW (United Auto Workers) union settlements, for a price of $10 thousand. You know the engine alone is worth $30 thousand. You would know that you're getting a good deal.

When you divide the after-debt value of the equipment held by JetBlue ($4.6 billion) by the number of shares outstanding (333.25 million), you will get a per-share value of $13.8 a share. In other words, you can acquire the net worth of the company's equipment at a 70% discount...

What's the vote?

Analysts are placing a price target of $7.60 a share on JetBlue, implying an 82% upside from today's prices. However, as you know, even these targets must be more accurate in the business' actual value.

But what is the broader market thinking now? It would be helpful to compare JetBlue to its competitors, such as United Airlines (NASDAQ: UAL) and Delta Airlines (NYSE: DAL). Mainly, you should compare their valuations based on P/E ratios and earnings growth expectations.

While United and Delta trade for a 3.1x and 4.2x multiple, respectively, JetBlue is going for a 51x P/E today. Why is the market all of a sudden willing to overpay for JetBlue? Easy, they expect earnings to be knocked out of the park. This expectation and perceived higher quality draw in premiums.

United and Delta earnings expectations indicate negative 2.6% and positive 10.6% rates for each, while analysts are pointing to JetBlue earnings swinging from a loss of $0.24 to a gain of $0.04 next year, over a 100% gain!

Putting things into perspective, the whole industry expects an average earnings growth rate of 11.7%, so while Delta is on the heels of the industry's potential average growth, it cannot compare to JetBlue's massive boom that is to come.

Considering that, on a year-to-date basis, JetBlue has underperformed the S&P 500 by as much as 27.8%, It makes it an explicit value play in the eyes of the market and analysts.

Besides, the math doesn't lie; in the absolute worst-case scenario - which is bankruptcy - you, as a potential shareholder, will still make money based on the net assets of the company.

If all else fails, use the following logic (in case the above valuations aren't enough). The stock trades at prices not seen since the recession of 2008; as far as you can see, is the global economy on the brink of total collapse?

Are houses being foreclosed left and right? Well, why should this airline be trading as if it was the case?

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