The 2 Best Stocks To Bet On Cuba

President Barack Obama is visiting Cuba this week, making him the first sitting President to visit the country in nearly a century. The last President to visit was Calvin Coolidge in 1928.

Relations for the United States and Cuba have been strained for more than 50 years, going back to the Cold War and including the trade embargo imposed by John F. Kennedy in 1962.  

#-ad_banner-#But a lot has happened over the past few years, and Obama continues to make more headway than any other President when it comes to mending the relationship. 

In late 2014, he announced a restoration of diplomatic ties between the United States and Cuba. Then in mid-2015, the two countries reported their respective embassies in Washington D.C. and Havana, Cuba. 

A strengthening of relations would mean that Cuba as a country is now open for business, which would be great news for U.S. companies, as well as Cuba. 

A Prime Spot For Travel
One of the best ways to profit on a strengthening relationship with Cuba will be with tourism. 

Cuba’s impressive beaches hold a lot of potential as a vacation destination, and it also holds appeal for business travel as the Caribbean’s largest economy. 

There’s already been a mini-tourism boom despite the embargo that’s still in place. Most of the some 60,000 hotel rooms in the country are booked months in advance. The number of visitors to Cuba was up 17% last year compared with 2014. And American visitors to Cuba increased nearly 80% last year. 

This comes as Cuban tourism is still illegal — the only allowed visitors under the U.S. trade embargo are those going for education or cultural exchanges, sports, religion or family visits. 

Still, when it comes to more people visiting the country, the obvious Cuba-related stocks to own includes the airlines, hotels and cruise ships. 

Just this week, Priceline (Nasdaq: PCLN) announced a deal with Cuba that allows Americans to book hotels in Cuba. It’s the first U.S. online travel agency to strike such a deal. 

Starwood Hotels (NYSE: HOT) is the first hotel to ink a deal in Cuba. The company announced that it will manage and market three Havana hotels under the Starwood Luxury Collection and Sheraton brand names. This gives Starwood a quick and easy way to break into the growing market. 

But when it comes to investing in stocks that will have Cuban exposure, part of the key is to figure out how much of a revenue boost these companies will get from Cuba. 

Priceline has a $66 billion market cap, so while entering the Cuban market is a positive, it might only boost revenues and earnings slightly. Starwood only has a $15 billion market cap, but it’s in the process of getting bought by Marriott International (NYSE: MAR). Carnival and American are also both sizable companies as well. 

The Best Bet Right Now
With just a $3.6 billion market cap, Spirit Airlines (Nasdaq: SAVE) has the potential to be the big winner when it comes to boosted tourism and visitors to Cuba. The discount airliner has already applied to operate two daily roundtrip flights to Havana. 

For now, a lot of the traffic to Cuba will generated by people visiting friends and relatives. The majority of Cuban-Americans live in Florida. Spirit operates its busiest hub in Fort Lauderdale. 

Another interesting play is Western Union (NYSE: WU), which just inked a deal with Cuba this week. It has a $9.5 billion market cap and is already the world’s largest money transfer company. It will start handling cash transfers to and from Cuba by the end of the summer. 

It’s a unique company that’s a play on the world’s underbanked population. Using Western Union, people in the states will be able to send cash to family and other Cuban nationals. The cash remittances to Cuba were upwards of $3 billion just a couple years ago and over 90% originated from the United States. 

Risks to Consider: Cuba is still a communist country and won’t become a democracy overnight. The embargo that’s still in effect will continue to limit the amount of business companies can do in the country. The next President will have to continue to build on the progress that has already been made. 

Action to Take: Both Spirit Airlines and Western Union are small enough to see a difference from Cuba-related business. Spirit appears to be a buy today as it has the potential to gain market share from the bigger airlines in not only Cuba but also the United States. The impact for Western Union might be less than Spirit, but WU’s solid dividend (yielding 3.4%) makes it worth owning as well.

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