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Here’s why Qantas Airways Limited shares hit turbulence today

Credit: Joits

Following the release of its first-quarter update the shares of Qantas Airways Limited (ASX: QAN) dropped a massive 9% to $2.67 in early trade, before taking off in the other direction. At the time of writing its shares are now higher by over 3% to $3.03.

In the first quarter Australia’s flagship carrier reported a 3% decline in revenue to $3.98 billion as a result of both increased competition on international routes and subdued demand from the domestic market in the first two months of its financial year.

Although passenger numbers rose 2.5% to $13.2 million, revenue per available seat kilometre was 5.5% lower in the quarter than in the prior corresponding period. This was consistent with guidance provided within its full year results.

I was pleased to see that the Qantas Transformation program has continued to result in lower costs in the quarter. Furthermore the airline has secured lower fuel prices through hedging and expects to see fuel costs drop from $1.7 billion to $1.5 billion in the first half of FY 2017.

In light of this Qantas has advised that it expects to deliver first half underlying profit before tax in the range of $800 million to $850 million. Whilst this is lower than the $921 million it delivered in the first half of FY 2016, it will still be at least the third-best first half result in Qantas’ history.

Qantas also updated the market on the progress of its share buyback program. Since shareholders voted in favour of its $366 million share buyback program on October 21, the company has been buying back its shares aggressively. $141 million worth of shares have been bought in the short time since it was approved, the equivalent of almost 44.2 million shares.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Qantas was in the market today buying shares, especially considering the incredible turnaround in its share price.

Because of the weaker demand and increased competition I think this should be regarded as a good result. I like Qantas as an investment and would recommend it ahead of rivals Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd (ASX: VAH) and AIR N.Z. FPO NZ (ASX: AIZ).

This is of course on the proviso that oil prices don’t break out. If OPEC freezes output and oil prices surge, then profitability is likely to be squeezed. But for now, I think Qantas would be a reasonable addition to some portfolios.

If airline shares are not for you then look no further than these fantastic growth shares instead. Each has growing earnings, a fully franked dividend, and the potential to bolt higher in the coming months in my opinion.

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Motley Fool contributor James Mickleboro has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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