Six Flags sees decreases in third quarter compared to 2019

Posted Tuesday, November 9, 2021 1:12 PM | Contributed by Jeff

From the press release:

Six Flags Entertainment Corporation (NYSE: SIX), the world’s largest regional theme park company and the largest operator of waterparks in North America, today reported attendance of 12 million guests and revenue of $638 million for third quarter 2021. Results for third quarter 2021 are not directly comparable to the same prior-year period due to the company’s COVID-19 related suspension of operations and operating restrictions that began in mid-March 2020. The company believes it is most relevant to compare its results in the third quarter of 2021 to the third quarter of 2019.

In the third quarter (July 5, 2021, through October 3, 2021), attendance at the company’s parks was approximately 92% compared to the comparable fiscal period in 2019, which was July 8, 2019, through October 6, 2019. Attendance by pre-booked groups, inclusive of school groups who typically book in advance, has been significantly diminished due to the pandemic. Excluding pre-booked groups, attendance at the company’s parks in third quarter 2021 was approximately 95% compared to the same period in 2019. As of October 18, all capacity constraints were lifted on the company’s two Mexico properties. Of the company’s 27 properties, only the company’s theme park in Montreal continues to have capacity constraints.

“We are encouraged by the strong demand we are seeing at all our parks and by our early progress transforming our business, as shown by accelerating attendance trends, higher per capita spending, and a growing Active Pass Base,” said Mike Spanos, President and CEO. “Through a difficult operating environment, we have remained focused on our ultimate goal: to delight our guests with thrilling experiences that only Six Flags can offer.”

Third Quarter 2021 Highlights

  • Attendance was 12 million guests, inclusive of a negative calendar shift of 437 thousand guests due to a change in the company’s fiscal reporting calendar, a decrease of 2 million compared to third quarter 2019.
  • Total Revenue was $638 million, an increase of $17 million compared to third quarter 2019.
  • Net Income was $157 million, a decrease of $23 million compared to third quarter 2019.
  • Adjusted EBITDA1 was $279 million, including $11 million of litigation reserve increases, a decrease of $28 million compared to third quarter 2019.
  • Net cash flow for third quarter 2021 was $137 million.

First Nine Months 2021 Highlights

  • Attendance was 22 million guests, a decrease of 5 million guests compared to the first nine months of 2019.
  • Total Revenue was $1,180 million, a decrease of $46 million compared to the first nine months of 2019.
  • Net Income was $132 million, a decrease of $58 million compared to the first nine months of 2019.
  • Adjusted EBITDA was $404 million, a decrease of $52 million compared to the first nine months of 2019.
  • Net cash flow for the first nine months of 2021 was $232 million.

Third Quarter 2021 Results

In third quarter 2021, the company generated $638 million of revenue with attendance of 12 million guests, net income of $157 million, and Adjusted EBITDA of $279 million. The company changed its fiscal reporting periods beginning in first quarter 2021. The change resulted in four fewer calendar days in July for third quarter 2021 than were included in the third quarter for both 2020 and 2019, including most of the July 4th holiday weekend. This was offset by three additional days in the month of October that were included in third quarter 2021 results. The net impact was a reduction of 437 thousand of attendance and approximately $24 million of revenue in third quarter 2021.

Net income and Adjusted EBITDA include an increase in litigation reserves of approximately $11 million. The total amount recorded primarily reflects management’s increased estimate of the probable outcome of the settlement of a legacy class action lawsuit. The Adjusted EBITDA calculation reflects an add-back adjustment of approximately $1 million of non-recurring costs related to the transformation plan, including a de minimis amount for employee termination costs and less than $1 million of technology costs.

Certain of the company’s memberships include bundled products and offerings. Since the beginning of the membership program, a portion of the membership revenue has been allocated from “Park admissions” revenue to “Park food, merchandise and other revenue.” Beginning in October 2020, the company prospectively began allocating an incremental portion of membership revenue from “Park admissions” revenue to “Park food, merchandise and other revenue.” This resulted in a reduction in reported admissions spending per capita and an increase in in-park spending per capita, but the allocation of revenue between “Park Admissions” revenue and “Park food, merchandise and other” revenue has no impact on “Total revenues” or “Total guest spending per capita.”

Results of third quarter 2021 compared to third quarter 2019

The $17 million increase in revenue was driven by higher guest spending per capita revenue, offset by lower attendance and a $14 million reduction in sponsorship, international agreements and accommodations revenue, primarily related to the termination of the company’s agreements in China and Dubai in 2020 and 2019, respectively, and a reduction in sponsorship revenue and accommodations operations due to the pandemic. The decrease in attendance was due to the temporary pandemic-related limitations on park operations, a reduction in pre-booked groups due to the pandemic, and the change in the company’s fiscal reporting calendar.

Total guest spending per capita in third quarter 2021 increased 23% compared to third quarter 2019. Applying the pro forma allocation from admissions spending to in-park spending in 2019, admissions spending per capita increased 20% and in-park spending per capita increased 26%. The increase in admissions spending per capita was driven by the company’s revenue management initiatives and the impact of most 2021 season passes being sold later in the season than in 2019, resulting in season pass revenue being recognized over fewer visits, which increases admissions spending per capita. The increase in in-park spending per capita was due to early progress on several of the company’s transformation initiatives and strong consumer spending trends.

The decrease in net income was driven by higher interest expense and higher operating costs. The increase in operating costs was driven by higher wage rates and incentive costs to attract and retain team members, increased litigation reserves, increased security in the company’s parks, the timing of repair and maintenance costs due to the company’s cautious approach to spending earlier in the year, and investments in the guest experience. The cost increases were offset by cost savings measures driven by the company’s transformation plan, lower advertising costs, and the change in the company’s fiscal reporting calendar.

First Nine Months 2021 Results

In the first nine months of 2021, the company generated $1,180 million of revenue with attendance of 22 million guests, net income of $132 million, and Adjusted EBITDA of $404 million. The company changed its fiscal reporting periods beginning in first quarter 2021. The change resulted in three additional calendar days in the first nine months of 2021 versus both 2020 and 2019, and shifted 470 thousand in attendance and $25 million or revenue from the fourth quarter to the first nine months of 2021.

Net income and Adjusted EBITDA include an increase in litigation reserves of approximately $11 million. The total amount recorded primarily reflects management’s increased estimate of the probable outcome of the settlement of a legacy class action lawsuit. The Adjusted EBITDA calculation reflects an add-back adjustment of approximately $12 million of non-recurring costs related to the transformation plan, including $1 million of employee termination costs, $4 million of technology costs, and $7 million of consulting costs. In addition, the company received a settlement payment of $11.3 million related to the termination of its agreements in China, which was recorded in second quarter 2021. Of this amount, $6.7 million was allocated to revenue from international agreements and $4.6 million was a credit to expense.

Results of First Nine Months 2021 compared to First Nine Months 2019

The $46 million decrease in revenue was due to a $48 million reduction in sponsorship, international agreements and accommodations revenue, primarily related to the termination of the company’s agreements in China and Dubai in 2020 and 2019, respectively; and a reduction in sponsorship revenue and accommodations revenue due to the pandemic. This decrease was offset by higher revenue from “Park admissions” and “Park food, merchandise and other.” Lower attendance, net of the attendance increase related to the fiscal reporting calendar change, was offset by higher guest spending per capita. The decrease in attendance was due to the temporary pandemic-related limitations and capacity restrictions on park operations at several of the company’s parks in 2021, and a reduction in pre-booked groups due to the pandemic.

Total guest spending per capita in the first nine months of 2021 increased 22% compared to the first nine months of 2019. Applying the pro forma allocation from admissions spending to in-park spending in 2019, admissions spending per capita increased 21% and in-park spending per capita increased 23%. The increase in admissions spending per capita was driven by the company’s revenue management initiatives and the impact of most 2021 season passes being sold later in the season than in 2019, resulting in season pass revenue being recognized over fewer visits, which increases admissions spending per capita. The increase in in-park spending per capita was due to early progress on several of the company’s transformation initiatives and strong consumer spending trends.

The decrease in net income was driven by higher interest expense and lower revenue. The company partially offset the decrease in revenue with lower costs of sales as a percentage of revenue. Operating costs in the first nine months of 2021 were flat compared to the first nine months of 2019, excluding the increase in litigation reserves of approximately $11 million. Reductions in operating costs due to cost savings measures were driven by the company’s transformation plan, lower advertising costs, the benefit from the proceeds received in connection with one of its terminated agreements in China, and lower salaries, wages, and benefits due to the fact that several of the company’s parks that were operating in first quarter 2019 were not operating in first quarter 2021. The decreases were offset by higher wage rates and incentive costs to attract and retain team members, increased security in the company’s parks, investments to improve the guest experience, and the change in the company’s fiscal reporting calendar.

Active Pass Base

As a result of the company’s retention and sales efforts, the Active Pass Base as of the end of third quarter 2021 increased 102% compared to third quarter 2020, and increased 3% compared to third quarter 2019. The Active Pass Base of 7.6 million included 2.2 million members as of the end of third quarter 2021, compared to approximately 1.9 million at the end of third quarter 2020 and 2.9 million members at end of third quarter 2019. The Active Pass Base also included 5.4 million traditional season pass holders compared to 1.9 million season pass holders at the end of third quarter 2020 and 4.5 million season pass holders at the end of third quarter 2019.

Deferred revenue was $224 million as of October 3, 2021, an increase of $26 million, or 13%, from September 30, 2020, and an increase of $26 million, or 13%, from September 30, 2019. The increase in deferred revenue was primarily due to the deferral of revenue from members whose benefits were extended.

Balance Sheet and Liquidity

As of October 3, 2021, the company had cash on hand of $390 million and $461 million available under its revolving credit facility, net of $20 million of letters of credit, or total liquidity of $851 million. This compares to $714 million of liquidity as of July 4, 2021. The company’s net cash flow was $137 million for third quarter 2021.

For first nine months of 2021, the company invested $62 million in new capital projects. Net debt as of October 3, 2021, calculated as total reported debt of $2,628 million less cash and cash equivalents of $390 million, was $2,238 million.

On August 26, 2020, the company amended its credit facility to, among other benefits, suspend testing of its senior secured leverage ratio financial maintenance covenant through December 31, 2021. The company’s lenders also approved modified testing of its senior secured leverage ratio financial maintenance covenant through December 31, 2022. Through the duration of the amendment period ending December 31, 2022, the company agreed to suspend paying dividends and repurchasing its common stock, and to maintain minimum liquidity of $150 million.

Transformation Plan Update

The company commenced a transformation plan in March 2020 to reinvigorate long-term profit growth, which includes both revenue and cost initiatives. The company is focused on modernizing the guest experience through technology, continuously improving operational efficiency, and driving financial excellence.

Executing the transformation will require one-time charges of approximately $70 million, of which $60 million will be cash and $10 million will be non-cash write-offs of ride assets. Approximately $46 million has been incurred through third quarter 2021, including all of the non-cash write-offs of ride assets. The company expects the remaining charges to be incurred in 2021 and 2022. The majority of the remaining investments will be made on the company’s information technology infrastructure, mainly directed towards modernizing the guest experience.

The company expects its transformation plan to generate an incremental $80 to $110 million in annual run-rate Adjusted EBITDA. The company expects to realize $30 to $35 million of fixed cost benefits in 2021, independent of attendance levels, and has already realized more than $23 million through the first nine months of the year. Based on year-to-date results, the company expects to achieve the high end of the range through incremental revenue opportunities and lower costs once the plan is fully implemented and attendance returns to 2019 levels; however, it expects to achieve a higher proportion of benefits from its revenue initiatives.

Relative to the mid-point of the company’s pre-pandemic guidance range of $450 million, this expectation implies Adjusted EBITDA of $560 million once the plan is fully implemented and attendance returns to 2019 levels.

Read the entire press release on Business Wire.

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