The last couple of years have been hugely uncertain for investors in easyJet (LSE: EZJ). The company has been hit hard by reduced demand for short-haul flights in Europe, with terrorism and economic difficulties hurting consumer confidence to a large extent. This caused the company’s earnings to decline by 22% last year, while its share price also disappointed when compared to the performance of the wider index.
However, with an improved strategy and a more positive outlook for the wider industry, the company is set to return to earnings growth next year. As such, now could be the perfect time to buy it for the long term.
easyJet announced on Monday that it has entered into an agreement to acquire part of Air Berlin’s operations at Berlin Tegel Airport. It is consistent with its strategy of seeking to acquire top positions in Europe’s major airports, or number two positions to a legacy incumbent. The deal will see the company enter into leases for up to 25 Airbus A320 aircraft, as well as assets including slots and flying crews. The acquisition is due to complete in December for a purchase consideration of €40m, with the deal subject to regulatory approvals.
As well as the acquisition, the company also has growth potential from its decision to seek higher passenger numbers at a time when competition within the industry has been high. Although this may have caused some pressure on margins, the business is expected to deliver a rise in its bottom line of 17% in the next financial year. This puts it on a price-to-earnings growth (PEG) ratio of only 0.8. This suggests that it may offer good value for money even after its share price has soared by 37% in the last year.
Of course, the travel and leisure sector appears to offer a number of sound investment opportunities. For example, TUI (LSE: TUI) is forecast to grow its bottom line by 27% in the current year and by a further 9% next year. This puts it on a PEG ratio of just 1.4, which indicates that it could post high share price returns over the medium term. In addition, it has a dividend yield of 4.1% versus 3.2% for easyJet. This could mean both stocks can help their investors to overcome the threat of inflation.
Certainly, TUI and its peers face some uncertainty in the near term. While demand may be on the up, the cyclical nature of the industry may mean it lacks the resilience of other sectors. However, with such low valuations on offer they appear to offer a relatively wide margin of safety at a time when the FTSE 100 is trading close to a record high. As such, now could be the perfect time to buy them ahead of improved share price performance in the long run.
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Peter Stephens owns shares in easyJet. 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.