Bad news has been good news lately for SeaWorld Entertainment (NYSE:SEAS)investors. Shares of the theme-park operator hit another seven-month high this morning, and more importantly for opportunistic investors, we're looking at a 66% gain since the stock bottomed out nearly three months ago.
If you think that the stock's resurgence has come on a flurry of improving turnstile clicks, profitability, and morale boosts, you couldn't be more wrong. The worse things seem to be getting for SeaWorld Entertainment, the better things seem to be getting for its shareholders.
- Sept. 19 -- SeaWorld announces that it's suspending its once-juicy dividend. The move shifts SeaWorld's yield from 6.6% to 0%. The stock goes on to open at an all-time low the next day, but since then has soared 66% through yesterday's close.
- Nov. 8 -- The marine-life specialist announces disappointing quarterly results. Revenue declines 2% on flattish attendance growth during the seasonally significant summer quarter, with earnings breaking below $1 a share during the third quarter for the first time since Seaworld has been a public company. SeaWorld falls well short of analyst targets, and it slashes its EBITDA guidance for all of 2016. The company's stock has shot up 37% since last month's earnings announcement.
- Dec. 6 -- SeaWorld reveals that it will eliminate roughly 320 employees across its dozen theme parks, the chain's biggest round of layoffs in two years. The stock is up 8% since announcing its headcount retreat last week.
Wall Street pays attention
The rally continues this week on the heels of a partnership that will open a SeaWorld park in Abu Dhabi in 2022 and a pair of encouraging analyst notes. The marine-life park in Abu Dhabi's Yas Island will be funded by SeaWorld's local partner, making this a no-brainer for a company counting its pennies these days. It will be the first SeaWorld to open without orcas.
Janney Capital analyst Tyler Batory upgraded SeaWorld stock from neutral to buy on Tuesday following the Abu Dhabi announcement. Batory sees improving fundamentals for SeaWorld in Florida, its largest and most problematic market after recent pricing moves. He also has a positive outlook for SeaWorld's original park in San Diego as it transitions away from killer-whale theatrical performances. He's boosting his price target from $16 to $24, a call that, if accurate, would find the shares hitting their highest levels in more than two years.
He's not alone. Macquarie analyst Matthew Brooks is upgrading the stock to outperform this morning, bumping his price goal from $13 to $22. Brooks sees encouraging trends with Latin American tourism, the biggest factor holding back attendance at SeaWorld Orlando this year.
If this is what the stock is doing when it has bad news on display, just imagine what will happen when it has good news to offer.