Why Carnival Corp. Stock Sank by Almost 11% in January

Why Carnival Corp. Stock Sank by Almost 11% in January

Shares of cruise ship company Carnival Corp. (NYSE: CCL) sank by 10.6% in January, according to data provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence. Other cruise and travel stocks performed comparably during most of the month. However, Carnival stock dropped more than its peers later in the month, signaling something specific to the company.

The market was potentially downbeat about a couple of factors. First, Carnival owns the Princess Cruises brand and its new largest ship, the Sun Princess, was scheduled to set sail in February. However, the ship won’t be ready in time, forcing Carnival to reschedule and offer refunds and travel credits to those who had already bought tickets.

Additionally, geopolitical turmoil in the Red Sea is forcing Carnival and other cruise lines to reroute cruises that were scheduled to pass through there. For Carnival, this meant rerouting 12 ships, which is more than some of its rivals. Unfortunately, there’s a real cost to doing this — management expects this will reduce its adjusted earnings per share (EPS) by $0.07 to $0.08 for the quarter.

Carnival stock was up 130% in 2023. With a strong year like that and a couple of concerns in January, it’s not surprising to see it have a small 11% pullback.

The silver lining

As it ended 2023, Carnival said that it was in its best booked position ever — demand for cruises has been exceptionally high and it introduced 3.5 million people to cruises last year. And when it gave its update about the Red Sea, the company clarified things even further by saying that it’s almost fully booked for its cruises in the first half of this year.

Atypically high occupancy levels are helping Carnival’s profitability and allowing it to reduce its substantial debt load at an encouraging pace. In fact, on Jan. 22 it announced that it had repaid all of its second-lien debt, which is great news. These notes weren’t due until 2027, but they had a nearly 10% interest rate. Wiping them out gets it closer to a more sustainable debt burden.

What’s next for Carnival stock?

I don’t believe investors should expect Carnival stock to more than double in 2024 like it did in 2023. Rather, I believe that investors should focus on the business. Two of the best things happening right now are the company’s full ships and the speed of its debt repayment. If both of these things can continue throughout the next year and beyond, I’d feel good if I were a shareholder planning to hold for the long term.

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Jon Quast has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Carnival Corp. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Why Carnival Corp. Stock Sank by Almost 11% in January was originally published by The Motley Fool