What’s In Store For Aviation Stocks?

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Indians are flying more than ever, with domestic air passengers hitting 100 million, double what they were six years ago.

In the latest aviation news, shares of Indian carriers have been buoyed by data showing air traffic in the January-March quarter of 2017 grew 18.5% compared to the same quarter in 2016, led by IndiGo Airlines’ parent company InterGlobe Aviation Ltd.

Domestic airlines ferried more than 2.72 crore passengers in the quarter, with IndiGo flying almost 40% of passengers, and Jet Airways (India) Ltd. trailing at just under 18%.

These factors have given markets reason to cheer. This year, shares of InterGlobe Aviation, Jet Airways and SpiceJet Ltd. have all performed well, with the latter beating competitors in terms of gains and all three outperforming the S&P BSE 500.

There are a few reasons for this revival in aviation stocks.

For the last month, aviation turbine fuel (ATF) has been cheaper on account of global crude oil movements and foreign exchange rates. This is good news, at least until oil marketing companies review fuel prices.

Then there’s the perennial question of when Go Airlines (India) Ltd. will list its shares, which has kept investors restless for years. Plans for a GoAir IPO are believed to have been in the works since 2015, but owners the Wadia Group have kept markets waiting on the right time.

Recently, GoAir’s CEO hinted once again that he believes the time is right for an IPO. The company was among the first airlines to fly the new Airbus A320neo and has 144 of them on order.

The most recent IPO in the airline sector was InterGlobe Aviation, which raised Rs 3,000 crore in 2015. The company recently established a wholly-owned subsidiary for airport services that has yet to start operations. Jet Airways has made a similar move to set up its own airport services subsidiary.

So, will this market sentiment remain positive?

Lower oil prices over the last two fiscal years have helped propel most Indian carriers to profitability. However, the Brent crude average of USD 55 per barrel in the quarter ending March 2017 is much higher than the USD 35 a barrel in the same quarter of 2016, and this has already rattled airline executives.

For this reason, analysts are projecting a decrease in airline net profits for the March quarter on a year-on-year basis.

Yield management figures in the March quarter will also determine the performance of aviation stocks. While observers have pegged February and March yields as reasonable, IndiGo yields are expected to slide for the entire quarter. Edelweiss Securities Ltd. expects higher passenger volumes will be offset by fuel costs, which will hit the airline’s net profit.

Recent cues from the government indicate some good news may be in store for the airlines.

According to Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha, a blueprint for expanding terminal capacity at Delhi Airport is on the way, and passenger movement at Delhi Airport could increase from 60 million to around 90 million in the next few years.

Investors also warmed to news that Sinha has promised to speed up forest clearance for Navi Mumbai International Airport.

For more on stock market & business news in India, visit BloombergQuint.

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