Cedar Fair net revenue up 2%, attendance up 1% in 2018

Posted | Contributed by Jeff

From the press release:

Cedar Fair Entertainment Company (NYSE: FUN), a leader in regional amusement parks, water parks and immersive entertainment, today reported record net revenues for its full-year and fourth-quarter 2018 results. The Company also announced a new long-term Adjusted EBITDA growth target.


  • The Company reported record full-year net revenues of $1.35 billion , up 2% from 2017.
  • Attendance at Cedar Fair's parks in 2018 was a record 25.9 million guests, a 1% increase from 2017; average in-park guest per capita spending in 2018 also increased 1%, to a record $47.69 .
  • Higher occupancy rates and average daily room rates at the Company’s resort properties contributed to the record out-of-park revenues of $152 million , a 6% increase from the prior year.
  • Continued demand for the Company’s award-winning Halloween events and the expansion of its WinterFest events in the fourth quarter of 2018 resulted in a 9% increase in net revenues over the prior-year quarter.
  • Sales to date on 2019 advance purchase commitments, including season passes, are up more than 25% from the same time last year, driven by expanded season pass offerings, a strong capital program and immersive new events scheduled to debut in 2019.
  • The Company announced new long-term growth initiatives and a 2023 Adjusted EBITDA 1 target of $575 million , representing a 4% CAGR over the next five years.

CEO Commentary

Cedar Fair President and CEO Richard A. Zimmerman said, “I am proud of our exceptional team and all that we accomplished in 2018. In particular, we ended the year strongly, achieving new highs in attendance and net revenues for both the fourth quarter and full year. Guests of all ages continue to delight in our immersive entertainment offerings including our Halloween Haunt and WinterFest celebrations. The success and expansion of these events has created momentum heading into 2019 as we are seeing strong sales activity in our advance purchase channels across all categories and all parks.

“As we look to the future, we remain committed to providing a compelling entertainment experience throughout the year for guests of all ages and we are confident we will entertain a record number of visitors again in 2019,” continued Zimmerman. “The FUNdamentals of our strategy are to broaden the guest experience through immersive new entertainment offerings that create urgency to visit our parks throughout the year; expand our season pass platform into a long-term relationship-based program to increase lifetime value for, and from, our guests; increase market penetration, particularly among the most attractive and growing audience segments within our markets; and pursue value-enhancing development opportunities adjacent to our parks. These initiatives will help us to achieve our new long-term Adjusted EBITDA goal of $575 million by 2023, and serve as the foundation for future growth well beyond the next five years.”

2018 Full-Year Results

For the full year ended Dec. 31, 2018 , Cedar Fair generated record net revenues of $1.35 billion , an increase of $27 million , or 2%, compared with the prior year. Driving this increase was a 1%, or 189,000-visit increase in attendance to a record 25.9 million visits; a 1%, or $0.39 , increase in average in-park guest per capita spending to a record $47.69 ; and a 6%, or $8 million , increase in out-of-park revenues to a record $152 million .

The Company attributes the increase in 2018 attendance to its strong second-half performance, including its successful Halloween Haunt and WinterFest events. Six of Cedar Fair’s 11 amusement parks remained open in November and December of 2018, and Canada’s Wonderland near Toronto will add WinterFest to its 2019 calendar of events.

Average in-park guest per capita spending improved as a result of increases in both pure in-park spending and non-season pass admissions pricing. The food and beverage category again led the increase in pure in-park spending driven by the continued growth and popularity of the parks’ all-season dining and beverage programs. This is a reflection of the Company’s focus on offering its guests a variety of culinary choices ranging from grab-and-go street fare to more uniquely branded menu items created by each park’s executive chef.

The 6% increase in out-of-park revenues was driven primarily from the Company’s resort accommodations. The increased revenues were the result of higher occupancy rates and average daily room rates, combined with a 158-room expansion to the historic Hotel Breakers located on Cedar Point’s mile-long beach. These gains more than offset the revenue lost with the removal of the 187-room Sandcastle Suites hotel at Cedar Point after the 2017 season.

Operating income for 2018 was $291 million , down 2% when compared with 2017. The 2% increase in revenues was offset by an increase of $30 million , or 3%, in operating costs to $892 million and an increase of $2 million , or 2%, in depreciation and amortization to $156 million. The increase in operating costs, which the Company anticipated, was largely attributable to increased labor costs due to increases in market and minimum wages and, to a lesser extent, increases in operating supplies for personnel-related costs and for the new WinterFest event at the Company’s Kings Dominion park in Virginia.

Interest expense for 2018 was comparable with the prior year. The net effect of swaps resulted in a $7 million charge to earnings for 2018 compared with an immaterial impact to earnings in 2017. The difference reflects changes in fair market value for these swaps. During 2018, the Company recognized a $1.1 million loss on early debt extinguishment in connection with amending its 2017 Credit Agreement, as compared with a $23.1 million loss on early debt extinguishment related to its debt refinancing in the first half of 2017. The Company also recognized a $36 million net charge to earnings for foreign currency losses compared with a $29 million net benefit to earnings for 2017. Both amounts primarily represent the re-measurement of the U.S. -dollar denominated debt held at the Company’s Canadian property from the applicable currency to the legal entity’s functional currency.

A $35 million provision for taxes was recorded for 2018 to account for the tax attributes of the Company’s corporate subsidiaries and publicly traded partnership taxes, compared with a $1 million provision for taxes in 2017. The increase in the 2018 tax provision relates primarily to the prior-year implementation of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

Net income for full-year 2018 totaled $127 million , or $2.23 per diluted limited partner (LP) unit, compared with net income of $215 million, or $3.79 per diluted LP unit, in 2017.

Full-year Adjusted EBITDA, which management believes is a meaningful measure of the Company’s park-level operating results, was $468 million , down 2%, or $11 million , when compared with last year. Adjusted EBITDA declined as attendance growth was more than offset by higher operating costs and expenses primarily attributable to planned seasonal labor rate increases. Although the Company reported record attendance in 2018, attendance growth was lower than anticipated due to disruptive weather patterns during the first half of the year and into the peak vacation month of July. This lower-than-anticipated attendance growth was partially offset by a record August and strong growth in the fourth quarter. See the attached table for a reconciliation of net income to Adjusted EBITDA.

Long-Term Outlook

Introducing the Company’s new long-term strategy Zimmerman stated, “Our mission is simple: To make people happy by providing fun, immersive and memorable experiences. Behind the scenes, our employees are dedicated to creating an experience so extraordinary that our guests want to return again and again, driving sustainable and highly profitable growth. This commitment is fundamental to our culture and will continue to be the foundation of our success.”

The Company is targeting $575 million in Adjusted EBITDA by 2023, which implies a 4% compound annual growth rate over the next five years. To achieve the Adjusted EBITDA target, Cedar Fair will focus on the four most compelling opportunities to accelerate its growth and profitability:

  • Broadening the guest experience - Leverage the Company’s management expertise and assets to offer a broader entertainment experience at a quality and scale no other regional entertainment venue can match.
  • Expanding the season pass program - Promote advance purchase commitments that create more consistent visitation patterns and reduce the impact of disruptive events such as bad weather. The Company’s season pass program will continue to evolve with a focus on affordability, retention and increased visitation.
  • Increasing market penetration through targeted marketing efforts - Utilize consumer and market research and data analytics to identify the most attractive and growing audience segments within its markets and determine the best communication and distribution channels for which to reach them.
  • Pursuing adjacent development - Expand the Company’s out-of-park revenue streams and maximize the value of its existing portfolio through further development adjacent to its parks.

“I am excited about our direction, optimistic about our growth potential and confident in our strategy. Our new long-term strategy will drive continued value creation through a balanced approach of investing in our business and returning capital to our unitholders through an attractive and growing distribution,” said Zimmerman.

Read the entire press release from Cedar Fair.

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