We upgrade our recommendation on Southwest Airlines (LUV) to Outperform from Neutral based on a number of constructive actions adopted by management. We believe that the company remains committed to sustain its brand and operational excellence via its cost-cutting measures, fleet rightsizing, addition of new and attractive destinations.
The company’s Evolve retrofit program, steady capacity growth, All-New Rapid Rewards and several steps to enhance ancillary revenues will position it advantageously in the coming days. Apart from the AirTran merger which can provide additional synergies, Southwest has set a number of initiatives to boost its profitability level in 2013.
We also appreciate Southwest s focus on uplifting its financial prosperity and capital efficiency. The company has a target price of $13, based on 13.3x our earnings estimate for 2013.
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