Thursday, February 21, 2013

Heard On... Six Flags 2012 Earnings Call

It is now safe to say that 2012 was a good year for amusement and theme park operators.  With earnings previously in from the other big chains, Six Flags Entertainment Corporation has also announced that they've had a record year as well.

The full details can be accessed from this press release put out by the company, and just like Cedar Fair did earlier this week Six Flags also had a conference call to discuss the results.  Here are some highlights from that.

• For 2012 total attendance grew 6% to 25.7 million guests - that's an extra 1.4 million visitors across all parks.  The chain also reports having record high safety metrics and guest satisfaction levels in the areas of safety, cleanliness, and value perception.

• Total revenues for the year were $1.070 billion, an increase of 5.6% over 2011.  EBITDA hit a record high of $383 million, at a margin of what the company calls an "industry high" of 39%.  The company has increased their margin from 24.4% in 2009 to 39% in 2012, which is pretty impressive.

• Much like Cedar Fair's recent focus, much emphasis has been placed on season pass sales.  Six Flags sold a record amount of them in 2012 and also have double digit increases so far in 2013 over last year.

• Individual per capita for 2012 was $39.41, seven cents more than last year.  The gain was from an increase of eleven cents from admissions and a loss of four cents for in park revenues.  Season pass attendance reached 40% of overall visits, which Six Flags says weakened their per caps.  Interestingly Cedar Fair also hit 40% of their attendance from season pass visits, but saw substantial gains in admissions and in park per caps last year.

• The 4th quarter saw record attendance levels for Halloween and Christmas celebrations.  The quarter saw revenues increase almost 5% and attendance up 3%.  The company credits this with investments in the promotions - and did not mention bad weather in the quarter like Cedar Fair did as a reason for their softer results.  The Halloween and Christmas events will continue to expand in the future.

• In park spending was up for the 4th quarter, due mainly to "premium attractions" like haunted houses and mazes, which are pay extra at Fright Fest.  It sounds like the parks depend on that revenue, so I would not look for the pay-extra aspect of the haunts to go away any time soon.

• Six Flags Mexico had several record days during their Halloween events, which were a first for them in 2012.  The park overall sounds like it is thriving, and they talked up the spinning coaster they are about to open there in a few weeks.

• The roll out of season pass dining passes is taking place this year, after being tested in two parks last year.  The tests were very successful and the company sees this as a potential solid revenue stream this year.