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Warren Buffett May Simply Take Over This Airline Entirely

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Warren Buffett May Simply Take Over This Airline Entirely
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Airline investors are thrilled that one of the most well-respected and successful investors on Wall Street has taken a massive stake in four different U.S. airline stocks in the last two quarters.

Buffett Hits The Skies

Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE: BRK.A) (NYSE: BRK.B) CEO Warren Buffett recently took sizable positions in Delta Air Lines, Inc. (NYSE: DAL), United Continental Holdings Inc (NYSE: UAL), American Airlines Group Inc (NASDAQ: AAL) and Southwest Airlines Co (NYSE: LUV). However, recent market rumblings suggest Buffett’s open market buying could simply be the first step in a major airline takeover.

Related Link: Wall Street's Biggest Whale Is Loving Airlines

By Plane And Train...

Morgan Stanley analyst Rajeev Lawani sees parallels between Buffett’s airline buying and spree and his simultaneous stakes in several railroad stocks roughly a decade ago. After initially taking stakes in Burlington Northern Santa Fe, Norfolk Southern Corp. (NYSE: NSC) and Union Pacific Corporation (NYSE: UNP), Buffett eventually opted for a full takeover of Burlington Northern.

“Accordingly – based on historical precedent and the state of the industry — we view a full-scale acquisition of an airline by Berkshire as a possibility and not worth dismissing, particularly if the stocks weaken,” Lawani explained.

Loving LUV?

Buffett and Berkshire have given no indication they are in the market for an airline buyout. However, Morgan Stanley sees overweight-rated Southwest as the best candidate among the “Big 4.”

“Of the Big 4, we highlight LUV’s domestic focus, robust and sustainable FCF, range of growth opportunities, defensible cost structure, and more tenured management team, which we are rolling through our updated bull case of $76,” Lawani added.

Lawani isn’t the only analyst speculating on a possible airline buyout.

“This year, we believe a surprise may be that a major airline gets acquired, potentially by Berkshire, or goes private on its own,” Cowen analyst Helane Becker wrote.

In the past six months, all of the Big 4 airline stocks are up between 26 and 60 percent.

Image Credit: By USA White House [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Latest Ratings for LUV

DateFirmActionFromTo
Jan 2018JP MorganDowngradesOverweightNeutral
Jan 2018Bank of AmericaDowngradesBuyNeutral
Dec 2017Atlantic EquitiesUpgradesNeutralOverweight

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