Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Analyze This: Where Do Airline Media ''Insights' Come From?

Don't mean to carp, but why in the world do so many in the airline part of the media run to stock-market "analysts" for all of their insights into the airline business?

Like this. And this. And this.

This is not to quibble with their basic financial points about the AMR corporation, though I would point out that right at this moment, the Wall Street valuation for the "parent" company of American Airlines, which has about 900 airplanes with a value in the many billions, is ... $141.3 million in market capitalization.

So why is so much reporting about airlines essentially reporting about airline companies as a stock play? Why is so little of it predicated on the idea that airlines are basic components of our transportation system? Why is this presented so often instead as just a Wall Street/stock market story?

Furthermore, who are these "analysts?" That's a question I used to ask decades ago when I was an editor at the Wall Street Journal who'd joined that paper after having been a city editor and reporter at big city newspapers.

The "analysts" much beloved by the media are mainly employees of big investment banks, stock brokers or other firms whose main business is ... peddling speculation in the stock market.

When I mentioned this misgiving at the Journal back in the second half of the 1980s, I was always blithely assured that an "analyst" employed by an investment bank or brokerage is an objective researcher, separated by an alleged "Chinese Wall" from those in the same company who toil in the main part of the business where they count the dough, enticing customers into giving them their money to speculate in stocks and other financial instruments.

Hahahah. Actually, I have been to the Great Wall of China. It ain't that hard to stroll right across it.

And not to put too fine a point on it, but who exactly ends up as an airline "analyst" at any company that speculates in Wall Street? I mean, it isn't like being the high-technology analyst, or the analyst for oil or telecommunications, is it? In the pecking order, it's kind of close to the poor soul who's the analyst for the newspaper industry.

Domestic airlines have lost, what, about $55 billion in the last decade?

So when the media present analysis based on these people's observations, I say, analyze that.


1 comment:

Jerry said...

Airline analysts at Wall Street firms are far from all knowing, but you're way off base in portraying them as fronts for investment banking. For example, three of the five top ranked analysts (in the Wall Street Journal's Best of the Street feature) work for firms that do no meaningful investment banking, one works for a firm that doesn't bank any airlines and only one works for a so-called "major" firm.