Thursday, July 6, 2017

Air Transport Services Group Seems To Have Found A New Cruising Altitude

“It's different this time” is probably one of the most expensive phrases in the history of investing (although “what could possibly go wrong?” might be a close second), as it often represents a period of peak optimism that lures in investors right before the company/industry snaps back to reality. On the other hand, failing to notice and accept a new fundamental reality can also be pretty expensive, as it means you may stand forever on the sidelines watching a great story go by.

That brings me to Air Transport Services Group (ATSG) – a company and stock that I have liked for some time that may actually be seeing a fundamental transformation in its business. While I liked the shares a year ago, I didn't really expect another 50%-plus move in the shares. The company's bull case has materialized, though, as demand for its freight aircraft has picked up and the company continues to build out its fleet.

And now? Historically, this company has had a hard time earning attractive free cash flow and its EBITDA performance has been erratic. I'm nervous about assuming that the next 10 years will be a radical departure from this, but the company's relationship with Amazon (AMZN) is a major driver of change, and the company's e-commerce venture in China could prove very lucrative. I still consider this a high-risk investment (this type of business tends to have a lot of competition, a lot of debt, and relatively low returns), but a fair value in the low $20's does not seem crazy to me today.

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Air Transport Services Group Seems To Have Found A New Cruising Altitude

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