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World's largest cruise company Carnival eyes Asian market

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Carnival Corporation is now the world's largest cruise company with a portfolio of brands in the US, Europe, Australia and Asia worth €30bn.

Carnival Corporation is now the world's largest cruise company with a portfolio of brands in the US, Europe, Australia and Asia worth €30bn.

CARNIVAL SPIRIT CRUISE SHIP ARRIVES IN MIAMI FROM FINLAND...

CARNIVAL SPIRIT CRUISE SHIP ARRIVES IN MIAMI FROM FINLAND...

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Carnival Corporation is now the world's largest cruise company with a portfolio of brands in the US, Europe, Australia and Asia worth €30bn.

The Russian revolutionary Trotsky is credited with the view that "old age is the most unexpected thing to happen to a man".

With increasing numbers of older people surprised by their good health and a feeling of financial security, industries have grown to cater for this growing market.

Not least of these is the cruise business, no longer the preserve of landed gentry. It is not the preserve of pensioners either, with young people happy to enjoy a week or two on the waves, prepared to tackle four large meals a day and have it washed down by some top-notch entertainment.

A measure of how the cruise business has expanded internationally in the last few decades can be seen in the figures from Carnival Corporation, the enterprise we put under the microscope today.

It is now the world's largest cruise company with a portfolio of brands in the US, Europe, Australia and Asia, a market value of $39bn (€30bn) and a listing in both London and New York. It is the only company on both the S&P 500 and the FTSE 100 indices.

Carnival has been the most aggressive of the cruise operators. It was first listed at the end of the 1980s when it had one brand and one million passengers. Today it has 10 brands and 10 million passengers having snapped up famous names like Holland Line, Seabourn Cruise Line, Cunard, Italian-based Costa Cruises and P&O Princess.

Today it has a portfolio of 100 ships. North America manages 62 ships, the UK seven and Europe and Australia 32.

The company operates in every market segment of the cruise business and in most geographical regions.

The most popular cruises are Carnival and Costa Cruises. There are 24 Carnival Cruise vessels travelling all year between Miami and the Caribbean; Costa Cruises has 14 ships in the Baltic Sea or on the Mediterranean. The Caribbean accounts for 40pc of world cruises, the Mediterranean 20pc. If, however, the customer wants to go upmarket, the company offers Holland America and Seabourn with 20 ships. Holland America is the company's five-star offering.

Seabourn is the company's ultra-luxury (and especially pricey) package and it concentrates on Europe and Asia. P&O Princess will take you to the likes of Hawaii, South Pacific, South America or New Zealand on any of its 17 ships.

The tragedy a couple of years back of the capsized Costa Concordia in Italy is a problem the company is still dealing with, but there are other management issues being addressed by CEO Arnold Donald. He has an ongoing cost reduction programme in place that examines crew travel, port fees and energy costs. It also plans to sell or scrap under-performing ships.

On the positive side the company is opening new sales offices in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea and five in China, where a potentially big new market looms.

Revenue in 2013 was $15.4bn, slightly down on the previous year.

North America accounted for almost half of revenue followed by Europe (including the UK) with one third.

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Ticket revenue was $12bn (80pc) of total revenue and onboard revenue a considerable $3bn.

Net income last year was down 18pc at $1bn, but this year should reach $1.3bn on revenues of $16bn. Estimates for 2015 are sales of $17bn and profits of $1.7bn.

Its shares at $39 are up from a yearly low of $31 but way off its high 10 years ago of $55. Carnival has initiated a $100m share buy-back programme and has earnings per share of $1.58.

Last year it paid dividends of $775m. Its shares traded on a low price to earnings ratio of 6 in January of 2009. Interestingly, today it's at a high of 27.

Some are of the opinion that the shares are fully valued and that Norwegian Cruise lines or Royal Caribbean line might offer better value. However China could turn out to be special if it really kicks off, which investors would welcome.

Nothing in this section should be taken as a recommendation, either explicit or implicit, to buy or sell any of the shares mentioned.


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