Carnival Strategy Update

Setting a strategic course after its acquisition of P&O Princess Cruises (POC), in documents distributed to shareholders, Carnival Corporation has essentially committed itself to growing the existing brands, developing the European cruise market further, and transferring more ships from North America to its European sister companies.

Carnival said that it intends ”to continue to grow its brands and broaden and develop the range of its destinations, itineraries, tours and vacation alternatives.” The company said that it plans to “strategically deploy its diversified fleet in order to increase its global reach and enter new and developing markets.”

Carnival stated that it believes it has “a significant opportunity to build the combined group’s presence in the relatively underdeveloped cruise vacation industry within continental Europe.”

Referring to recent ship transfers from POC and from Carnival to European sister companies, Carnival said it expected ”to continue to explore opportunities to utilize its vessels in such a manner,” which it said was “consistent with providing the overall best return for the group.” That means more ships will leave the North American market and be repositioned in Europe.  

Documents also revealed some nuances that may be indicative of future product branding. Holland America Line was described as a premium product, while Princess Cruises was defined as a leader in destination trades.

Up to this point, company brands have been clearly differentiated by market segments, with six brands managed by four distinct management groups operating on a decentralized basis. With the addition of the POC brands, Carnival may have to think differently, unless it plans to let the brands compete head on, but that would seem to conflict with the statement that it will operate in a manner that is consistent with providing the best return for the group.

Starting with one ship 27 years ago, the combined Carnival group will now have approximately 11,400 full- and part-time employees engaged in shoreside operations and approximately 45,800 officers, crew and staff on its fleet of 65 cruise ships and two riverboats.

Pro-forma 2002 results for the group were $6.9 billion in revenues and net income of $1.3 billion. Assets were listed as $21.5 billion, including $1.7 billion in cash, compared to total debt of $8.3 billion.

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