United Continental (NYSE: UAL) and Avianca (NYSE:AVH) are both transportation companies, but which is the superior business? We will compare the two businesses based on the strength of their institutional ownership, earnings, dividends, profitability, valuation, risk and analyst recommendations.

Profitability

This table compares United Continental and Avianca’s net margins, return on equity and return on assets.

Net Margins Return on Equity Return on Assets
United Continental 5.22% 25.26% 5.30%
Avianca 2.12% 11.94% 1.61%

Analyst Ratings

This is a summary of recent ratings and price targets for United Continental and Avianca, as reported by MarketBeat.

Sell Ratings Hold Ratings Buy Ratings Strong Buy Ratings Rating Score
United Continental 1 8 7 0 2.38
Avianca 0 1 2 0 2.67

United Continental currently has a consensus target price of $81.13, indicating a potential upside of 6.05%. Avianca has a consensus target price of $11.00, indicating a potential upside of 36.48%. Given Avianca’s stronger consensus rating and higher probable upside, analysts clearly believe Avianca is more favorable than United Continental.

Dividends

Avianca pays an annual dividend of $0.09 per share and has a dividend yield of 1.1%. United Continental does not pay a dividend. Avianca pays out 20.0% of its earnings in the form of a dividend.

Insider & Institutional Ownership

95.7% of United Continental shares are held by institutional investors. Comparatively, 4.2% of Avianca shares are held by institutional investors. 0.3% of United Continental shares are held by company insiders. Strong institutional ownership is an indication that large money managers, endowments and hedge funds believe a company is poised for long-term growth.

Earnings & Valuation

This table compares United Continental and Avianca’s top-line revenue, earnings per share and valuation.

Gross Revenue Price/Sales Ratio Net Income Earnings Per Share Price/Earnings Ratio
United Continental $36.56 billion 0.62 $2.26 billion $6.34 12.07
Avianca $4.14 billion 0.16 $44.18 million $0.45 17.91

United Continental has higher revenue and earnings than Avianca. United Continental is trading at a lower price-to-earnings ratio than Avianca, indicating that it is currently the more affordable of the two stocks.

Volatility & Risk

United Continental has a beta of 1.05, suggesting that its stock price is 5% more volatile than the S&P 500. Comparatively, Avianca has a beta of 0.87, suggesting that its stock price is 13% less volatile than the S&P 500.

Summary

United Continental beats Avianca on 12 of the 16 factors compared between the two stocks.

About United Continental

United Continental Holdings, Inc. (UAL) is a holding company and its principal subsidiary is United Air Lines, Inc. (United). The Company transports people and cargo through its mainline operations. It has global air rights in North America, Asia-Pacific, Europe, Middle East, Africa and Latin America. The Company, through United and its regional carriers, operates flights from its hubs at Newark Liberty International Airport (Newark Liberty), Chicago O’Hare International Airport (Chicago O’Hare), Denver International Airport (Denver), George Bush Intercontinental Airport (Houston Bush), Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), A.B. Won Pat International Airport (Guam), San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and Washington Dulles International Airport (Washington Dulles). It has contractual relationships with regional carriers to provide regional jet and turboprop service branded as United Express. These regional operations are an extension of the Company’s mainline network.

About Avianca

Avianca Holdings SA is a Panama-based company engaged, through its subsidiaries, in the provision of air transportation services for passengers and commercial purposes. The Company was originally established as a strategic alliance between Aerovias del Continente Americano SA (AVIANCA) and Grupo TACA Holdings Limited (GTH), and it mainly operates in North, Central and South America, the Caribbean and Europe. In addition, through codeshare agreements, the Company is active in the operation of other international passenger air routes. As of December 31, 2011, the Company owned such subsidiaries as Latin Airways Corporation and LifeMiles Corporation, among others. On December 28, 2012, the merger of subsidiaries Latin Airways Corporation, as absorbing company, with Synergy Ocean Air Colombia SAS and Soac 2 SAS was formalized. On June 18, 2013, the Company received the first out of 15 ATR 72-600, a turbo-propelled aircraft from ATR, a company engaged in regional aircraft.

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