February 19, 2014

Six Flags stock rises on “great momentum”

The company said its adjusted EBITDA reached $404 million in 2013 as revenue from ticket prices and guest spending increased.

Grand Prairie-based Six Flags Entertainment Corp., the nation’s largest operator of regional theme parks, said its net profit fell in the fourth quarter of 2013 despite increased attendance and guest spending.

However, Six Flags said another measure of the company’s earnings, adjusted EBITDA — earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization — totaled a company-high $404 million last year. And investors sent the stock price nearly 5 percent higher.

Six Flags, which operates 18 parks, including Six Flags Over Texas and Hurricane Harbor in Arlington, reported net profit for the quarter of $13.3 million, or 13 cents a share, compared with $155.7 million, or $1.40 a share, a year earlier.

That figure was lower because of two factors. The company logged a $67 million gain on the sale of its equity interest in dick clark productions in the fourth quarter of 2012. And it recorded a $192.6 million income tax benefit in the 2012 quarter but only $34.7 million in 2013.

Revenue was $154.1 million in the quarter, up from $143.9 million, while full-year revenue grew to $1.1 billion from $1 billion in 2012.

“The company has great momentum,” CEO Jim Reid-Anderson told financial analysts during a conference call Wednesday. “It was an excellent quarter and excellent year for Six Flags.”

On Wall Street, Six Flags shares (ticker: SIX) gained $1.77 to $40.02.

Fourth-quarter attendance was just 3.7 million guests during a period when the amusement parks are open only for Fright Fest and Holiday in the Park. And many parks, including those in Texas, were affected by snow and ice storms in December, the company said.

For all of 2013, attendance increased 2 percent to 26.1 million guests. Guest spending rose 6 percent to $37.99 per capita in the fourth quarter, the company said.

Six Flags has been able to raise prices, and Reid-Anderson said he expects that trend to continue.

“We are still in the early stages of getting prices up,” he said. “We’re not done yet.”

The record EBITDA marked an increase of $21 million, or 5 percent, over 2012. Six Flags executives are trying to achieve $500 million in EBITDA before Dec. 31, 2015. If they do, they will be awarded stock shares.

Reid-Anderson said guest satisfaction scores, which include safety ratings and value, reached record highs last year.

“With 2013 guest satisfaction scores also at a record high, our guests recognize we are providing innovative rides and attractions, superb service, and great value for their money,” he said in a statement released before the analyst call.

Asked by an analyst about the effect on attendance from the July roller-coaster fatality at Six Flags Over Texas, Reid-Anderson said, “The tragic accident clearly impacted attendance there.” He did not elaborate or make any comment about lawsuits filed in the case.

A 52-year-old Dallas woman riding the Texas Giant fell 75 feet to her death July 19.

This week, Six Flags filed an action against Gerstlauer, the German maker of the coaster, alleging that the car the woman was riding in was defective and dangerous.

The woman’s family has sued Six Flags and the manufacturer, and an attorney for Gerstlauer said this week that the company expects to sue Six Flags.

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