Downward Slope for Vail Resorts

Ski resort operator Vail Resorts (NYSE: MTN  ) announced mixed second-quarter results before the bell Monday, and shares traded down as much as 5.5% in early morning trading.

Here are some key points from the quarter:

  • Net income was down 3.2% year over year, coming in at $51.3 million.
  • Total revenue decreased 0.3% from 2Q 2007 to $360 million, due mostly to the real estate segment, which fell 19.1%. The much larger mountain and lodging segments, on the other hand, combined for a sales increase of 3.2%, despite less snowfall in this year's early season.
  • Total EBITDA margins retreated slightly to 32.6% from more than 33%.
  • Management reaffirmed its fiscal 2008 outlook of $112 million to $122 million in net income, including stock-based compensation charges.

Because of its mostly winter-related business, Vail Resorts' second and third quarters are its time to shine, but this quarter's numbers haven't impressed the market.

Add that to the fact that tourism stocks in general, like Wynn Resorts (Nasdaq: WYNN  ) and Las Vegas Sands (NYSE: LVS  ) , have been beaten down severely over the past six months, and it's easy to see why Vail shares have fallen on dark days, off about 40% since October.

A lackluster third-quarter report could lull this stock into summer hibernation. Or, if the late-season numbers are positive in June, as they were last year, investors may look back at current prices and wish they'd had the foresight to buy in when times were bad.

For the Vail Resorts bulls, there are a few positive trends that were supported in this report. For one, the U.S. dollar remains weak, which makes Vail properties more affordable for international visitors. In fact, the number for international guests visiting was up 23% for the second quarter.

In addition, the Colorado Rockies (not the baseball team) have been hit with record snowfall so far in 2008, which could boost late-season revenue: Vail Resorts reported that its lift revenue grew 11% in the after-Christmas part of the quarter.

Vail Resorts' real estate operations remain the biggest question. Investors should continue to monitor this segment.

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