Flying giant International Consolidated Airlines Group (LSE: IAG) was one of the FTSE 100’s biggest soarers in end-of-week business, the stock last 5% higher following a positive reception to first quarter numbers.
The British Airways and Iberia owner announced that operating profit hit €170m during January-March, up 9.7% year-on-year. This was despite revenues dipping 2.8% during the three months to €4.9bn as currency pressures and the later Easter holiday weighed.
Lauding the results, chief executive Willie Walsh commented that “this is a record performance in Q1, traditionally our weakest quarter, with the improving trend in passenger unit revenue continuing.”
Walsh also took time to applaud the popularity of its recently-launched LEVEL budget airline brand, commenting that “it’s already been extremely successful with sales running well ahead of expectations.”
LEVEL is due to begin running flights from Barcelona to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Punta Cana and Buenos Aires from June, and has been identified as a future earnings driver for IAG.
Furthermore, the company’s bubbly first-quarter performance prompted it to affirm expectations that operating profit will grow again in 2017.
Today’s share price spurt leaves IAG dealing at levels not seen since December 2015, but I believe the company still offers plenty of upside as conditions in the airline industry steadily improve.
Indeed, IAG said today that the group expects Q2 passenger unit revenue to show an increase versus last year, at constant currency. If realised this would mark the first year-on-year improvement for three years.
IAG has remained resilient despite predictions of collapsing air traffic following June’s EU referendum, and is well placed to benefit from improving trading conditions seen more recently. Not only is the business a big-player in transatlantic travel, but its rising presence in the low-cost segment — both long- and short-haul — also promises plenty of revenues opportunity.
Given this promising outlook, the City expects IAG to lift last year’s 23.5 euro-cent-per-share dividend to 24.4 cents in the present year, and again to 26.5 cents in 2018.
These figures yield a chunky 3.7% and 4% respectively, and I expect rewards to keep heading higher as revenues improve.
I am less than enthused by the investment outlook of Hammerson (LSE: HMSO), however, even though the property developer is also expected to shell out generous medium-term dividends.
In 2017 the company is predicted to pay a 25.4p per share dividend, up from 24p last year and yielding 4.3%. And for 2018 the yield steps to 4.6% thanks to predictions of a 26.8p payment.
However, the uncertainties facing the UK retail sector in the near term and beyond cause me great concern for Hammerson’s profit prospects, and with it the promise of abundant dividends.
Not only could rising inflation and dipping consumer confidence cause retailers to reassess their expansion programmes should profits slump, but the structural shift in the shopping sector from bricks-and-mortar stores to online also casts doubts over demand for the company’s properties in the years ahead.
I reckon there are far less-risky dividend stocks out there right now.
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Royston Wild has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.