NASCAR Moving Fast Bodes Well for International Speedway

With a historic TV rights negotiation and greater brand affiliation than any other U.S. sport, NASCAR is headed nowhere but up. With 12 speedways, including the home of the iconic Daytona 500, International Speedway is in position to profit.

Jan 30, 2014 at 5:32PM

Daytona, Fla.-based International Speedway (NASDAQ:ISCA) is an American staple. The company behind NASCAR's greatest event, the Daytona 500, and plenty of others, believes its brightest days are ahead of it after the country's biggest sport (by sales) renegotiated a lucrative TV contract and as NASCAR's stars grow their public image and appeal. While International Speedway isn't a press-loving hyper-growth or cheaply valued stock, the company does offer investors a rare, vivid view into its sales for the next decade -- a luxury that allows for easy forecasting. Recent earnings showed a year-over-year drop for the company's full fiscal year, but that should not deter investors from what looks to be a reliable, easy-to-understand business that will without doubt grow in the long term.

NASCAR, like most other elements of the U.S. economy, was hurt deeply during the financial crisis and was slow to recover. As of year-end 2013, International Speedway management was finally seeing what it considers a "stabilization" of its core business.

As mentioned above, sales did fall year over year, but just barely. The company hauled in $188.7 million in its fiscal fourth quarter -- down from $189.4 million in 2012's same quarter. Beyond the macroeconomic timidity, the company took hits in the form of a $400,000 marketing expense for its mega project at the Daytona Speedway, called Daytona Rising. 

Daytona Rising is a much bigger project than that 400 grand might suggest. It's a $400 million effort to revamp the iconic venue. At its completion, Daytona Rising will have 40 million pounds of steel -- 1% of annual U.S. steel output. The project is aimed at reenergizing consumer interest in the sport, enhancing the experience, drawing in more corporate sponsors (the first major sponsor is to be named shortly), and ultimately, greater usage fees. Additionally, the company has a proposed project that would be built across the street. This one, called One Daytona, would be a multipurpose entertainment complex.

International Speedway also took a $6.3 million charge related to retired assets.

On an adjusted basis, net income came in at $25.8 million ($0.55 per share), compared to $28.3 million ($0.61 per share) in the year-ago quarter.

So what makes this business appealing if sales are still falling year over year, especially considering that NASCAR is only growing its already tremendous fan base and sales?

The big thing for investors to focus on is the fact that NASCAR just negotiated a 10-year deal for TV rights.

NASCAR attracts 70 million viewers for its Sprint Cup series. This is a highly targeted demographic that is extremely valuable in the eyes of advertisers. Beyond its core male demographic, the sport is also growing its traction with women and Hispanic fans. The TV rights are the key source of income for International Speedway, and investors can put their calculators away as the next decade's sales are already available for viewing.

Last year, NASCAR ended its run with Disney-owned ESPN, renegotiated its contract with Fox, and opened a new deal with NBC Sports. The deal, covering TV rights for 2015-2024, was the biggest in the sport's history at $8.2 billion. The more that NASCAR earns from its TV rights, the more International Speedway charges for usage, as well.

The exact gains that International Speedway will see are not yet available, but during management's conference call it was made clear that we should know sometime in the first quarter of 2014. Investors should expect appealing figures.

Attendance numbers are still recovering for International Speedway's properties, but the industry tailwinds look great. Being so closely tied to NASCAR is a great business moat for the company, and with more Fortune 500 brands sponsoring the sport than any other in the United States, the value of this partnership is clear. Investors and fans alike should feel good about International Speedway's prospects going forward.

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