Saturday, November 9, 2013

Heard On... Cedar Fair's 3rd Quarter Conference Call

Earlier this week Cedar Fair released record earnings yet again, continuing a several year long trend of impressive results.

The third quarter of 2013 was the best ever for the company, with revenues of $592.1 million.  Attendance for the period was up 2%, and both out of park spending (hotels, etc) and in park per capita spending were up significantly.

The company is primed to reach a 4th straight record year as through November 3rd total revenues for 2013 were at $1.04 billion, yes with a "b," and so far 22.7 million guests have visited the parks this year.  It sounds like the October Halloween season was very good to the parks again this year!

Cedar Fair also announced an increase to the dividend for unit holders of the company; a 12% increase to $0.70 a quarter.

As always, a conference call was held and between that and the release there's some other interesting tidbits to cover!

•  Matt Ouimet said in the press release "we will also introduce the first edition of our Amusement Dark portfolio - Guardian of Wonder Mountain at Canada's Wonderland.  This innovative new ride combines a coaster track with an interactive digital gaming system.  The longest interactive screen in the world provides a compelling adventure in search of the dragon's gold and, as Halloween approaches, the adventure changes as zombies make their presence known."  So now we know why they trademarked "Amusement Dark" - looks like it's the name for the upcoming roll out of big dark rides at parks across the chain!  Also as anticipated the digital portion of Guardian will be able to be changed seasonally, including the zombies mentioned above.  Pretty cool.

• Having such a successful year, plus selling two water parks, has left a lot of cash laying around it seems.  Mr. Ouimet points out that leads to additional investments: "In 2014, this will include the addition of our very popular cottages and cabins at select parks, along with an in-park TV network that will provide additional entertainment for our guests."  I'm quite interested to see these are two new camping resorts - or expansions of existing ones.  The fact that it is two of them was detailed in the call, but never totally explained as new additions or expansions and no parks were ever named.

• The chain's focus on improving food at all parks paid off through a 1.6% increase in food related revenues for the year.  Sounds like the trend will continue, as Kings Island just announced the hiring of an executive chef.

• Cedar Fair has always said they spend 9% of revenues on new capital expenditures for the parks, but now are saying they will spend at least that - but have no problem spending more for long term growth.  Excellent!  And this is on top of the $15 million or so that was announced for fixing up the hotels at Cedar Point.  It again sounds like a lot of the cash for these investments are coming from the water park sales.

• The idea behind the in-park TV system (something Six Flags started doing years ago) is not only to make money off of advertising, but also to spread the work on food and beverage and live entertainment at the parks.  It was also mentioned that it could be tied into social media, which makes sense in today's world.

• New revenue streams have picked up quickly and are adding cash to the registers at a pace above what the company predicted - namely Fast Lane.  It was also mentioned as a lucrative item during Haunt, so perhaps we'll see the addition of the Skeleton Key at more parks next year?

• Back on Canada's Wonderland's Guardian - Mr. Ouimet said they were looking for an attraction that's affordable, repeatable, and able to be changed.  He said he was up in Montreal trying out the technology for the ride and described it as "playing Ghostbusters."  It definitely sounds like so long as Guardian works out at Canada's Wonderland this is something we could see pop up all over.