Elliott Management Is Betting Big on Southwest Airlines (LUV) Stock

  • Elliott Management took a nearly $2 billion position in Southwest Airlines (LUV).
  • The activist investor is pushing for changes against a tight corporate culture.
  • Is this the end of open seating?
LUV stock - Elliott Management Is Betting Big on Southwest Airlines (LUV) Stock

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Southwest Airlines (NYSE:LUV) jumped 8% over the weekend on news Elliott Management invested nearly $2 billion in LUV stock.

The move makes Elliott one of Southwest’s biggest owners.

The activist investor is expected to push for changes aimed at increasing returns to investors.

LUV stock was due to open this morning at about $30 per share, and its market capitalization was nearly $18 billion.

Not Feeling the Luv

While the news means LUV stock is now up slightly for 2024, it’s down over the last 12 months and off 40% from mid-2019.

Southwest management said it was ready to “engage” with Elliott. But Skift, which specializes in covering travel, worried Elliott may demand Southwest replace CEO Robert Jordan, who has been with the airline for 36 years.

Southwest is known for its tight corporate culture. The late Herb Kelleher built it around a Texas commuter airline running planes out of Dallas’ Love Field, which gave Southwest its ticker symbol, LUV.

However, under Mr. Jordan, who became CEO in early 2022, the airline has had a bumpy ride. Its technology platform collapsed that Christmas, leading to a $140 million penalty from the Department of Transportation.

Southwest is also hurt by the Boeing (NYSE:BA) 737 mess. Flying a single plane was once a strategic advantage. Yet Boeing’s quality problems mean Southwest isn’t getting new planes quickly enough.

It’s unclear exactly what changes Elliott could enact that might help, however. Other budget airlines, like JetBlue (NASDAQ:JBLU) and Spirit (NASDAQ:SAVE), are having even bigger problems. A merger between those two was called off in March.

LUV Stock: What Happens Next?

Southwest is said to be looking at ending its open-seat program and charging for premium seats. The airline plans to discuss its plans at an investment event in September.

On the date of publication, Dana Blankenhorn did not hold (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.

Dana Blankenhorn has been a financial and technology journalist since 1978. He is the author of Technology’s Big Bang: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow with Moore’s Law, available at the Amazon Kindle store. Tweet him at @danablankenhorn, connect with him on Mastodon or subscribe to his Substack.

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