Saturday, November 8, 2014

Heard On... Cedar Fair 3Q14 Earnings Conference Call + More Stand-Up Transformations?

This past week Cedar Fair announced their 3rd quarter earnings, with a full press release available on the company's website.

The results were good, as Cedar Fair was able to report record revenues for the quarter of $595 million.  The company had an extremely strong October, which has made revenues through November 2nd up 2% over last year, based on a 3% increase in per capita spending, offset by a 1% decrease in attendance.

The company also declared a $0.75 distribution per unit (up 7%), payable in December.

The real goodies always come on the conference call discussion the quarter, here's what I took note of:

•  There was "record demand" for Halloween events this year; though exactly what that means is not clear.  Regardless, they're as popular as ever and won't be going away any time soon.

•  California's Great America was closed a total of 7 season days this season due to the 49ers stadium, and each of those days the 49ers paid to "buy out" the park.  Cedar Fair still operated their new banquet center those days, though, to make additional revenue.  Smart.

•  Knott's Berry Farm and Kings Island are expected to both produce record levels of individual profit this year.  Cedar Point is expected to have its 2nd best year ever, behind last year when GateKeeper opened.

•  The changes made at Knott's, mainly investing in atmosphere, refurbishments and improving the guest experience has been a home run success.  Cedar Fair feels there is room to replicate this type of investment patterns at other parks to achieve the same results.  I can't wait to see this!

•  Next year the company will spend $170 million in capital expenditures, much higher than normal due to the Hotel Breakers renovation project.  The hotel renovation has been the largest capital project in Cedar Fair's history.  In the future, they expect to spend about $120 million a year on capital, which is up a bit from their older "9% of revenues" guidance.

•  Fury 325 will be the anchor for the re-launch of the Carowinds brand into the Charlotte market.  The company is also spending a large amount of capital on the park, as announced previously, in various smaller projects.

•  When speaking of Rougarou, CEO Matt Ouimet stated that the ride represents a "new strategy" of taking a "less popular roller coaster and transforming it into an exciting experience through the introduction of new floorless trains."  It costs a "fraction" of a new coaster, and is an efficient way to spend capital in order to get a new attraction.

•  If Rougarou is a success, and they expect it will be, they've already identified two other coasters where they can "make similar investments."  One would think this would be Vortex at Carowinds and Vortex at California's Great America, two other (but smaller) B&M Stand-Up rides.  Or it could be another coaster... but that seems less likely.  I would expect unique names and themes if the transformations take place.