September 28, 2014 / 6:28 PM / 4 years ago

New CEO could send JetBlue shares flying: Barron's

An airport worker leads JetBlue planes onto the tarmac of the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York December 11, 2013. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

NEW YORK (Reuters) - JetBlue (JBLU.O) shares have struggled compared with their airline peers this year, but the arrival of a new chief executive could lead to sharp gains at the low-cost airline, Barron’s wrote in its Sept. 29 edition.

Earlier this month, JetBlue announced that Robin Hayes, its president, would be taking over as chief executive, effective in February. Analysts expect Hayes to focus more on profitability, and “new prices and changes to some amenities could pay off handsomely for shareholders,” the financial publication wrote.

Barron’s speculated that JetBlue shares could rise to $15 if it initiates bag fees and other means of generating revenue, citing Helane Becker, an analyst at Cowen. That target represents upside of about 42 percent from JetBlue’s Friday closing price of $10.58.

JetBlue could increase the number of seats in some of its planes by 8 percent if it shrinks leg room, “bringing in an additional 18 cents in [earnings per share],” Barron’s wrote, citing Becker’s analysis.

The stock is up 24 percent thus far in 2014, sharply outperforming the S&P 500’s .SPX 7.3 percent advance, though it has lagged other airline names. Delta (DAL.N) is up 33 percent this year, while American Airlines Group (AAL.O) is up 42 percent and Southwest Airlines (LUV.N) has soared nearly 80 percent.

Reporting by Ryan Vlastelica; Editing by Nick Zieminski

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