Cedar Fair (NYSE:FUN) reported first-quarter financial results on May 2. The amusement park master limited partnership is enjoying strong early-season sales, and management is confident that it will hit its annual distribution growth targets.

Cedar Fair results: The raw numbers

Metric

Q4 2017

Q4 2016

Year-Over-Year Change

Net revenue

$54.727 million

$48.318 million

13%

Adjusted EBITDA

($65.522 million)

($65.469 million)

N/A

Net loss per unit

($1.49)

($1.16)

N/A

Data source: Cedar Fair Q1 2018 earnings press release. EBITDA = earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization.

What happened with Cedar Fair this quarter?

Cedar Fair typically operates at a loss in the first quarter, since it generates less than 5% of its revenue during this time, when most of its parks are closed. This was the case again in Q1 2018; operating loss came in at $75.6 million, compared to $76 million in the prior-year quarter. The slight improvement was due to higher revenue generated in the quarter, which was only partially offset by a 5% increase in costs and expenses.

During a conference call with analysts, CFO Brian Witherow said that sales were boosted by new attractions at one of Cedar Fair's theme parks:

Our revenue increase for the quarter was primarily driven by the outstanding early-season performance of Knott's Berry Farm, our only park with meaningful first-quarter operations. ... During the first quarter this year, this included their inaugural Peanuts Celebration and a portion of their annual Boysenberry Festival. The excitement surrounding these events -- as well as the other investments we've made and continue making at the park -- has not only led to strong sales in the first quarter, but has also led to strong year-over-year increases in season-pass sales, in both the number of units sold and price per unit.

Despite the higher sales, Cedar Fair's net loss -- which was negatively impacted by a $10 million charge related to foreign currency movements -- increased to $83.4 million, or $1.49 per limited partner unit, in the first quarter. That compares to a loss of $64.8 million, or $1.16 per unit, in the year-ago quarter. And adjusted EBITDA -- which helps to better highlight Cedar Fair's park-level operating results, since it excludes the impact of foreign exchange, interest-rate swaps, debt extinguishment, stock-based compensation, and certain other charges -- was essentially flat year over year, at negative $65.5 million.

Rising rolls of dollar bills

Cedar Fair's unitholders can expect higher cash distribution payouts in the years ahead. Image source: Getty Images.

Looking forward

These strong sales results make Cedar Fair optimistic that it can continue to reward its investors with a steadily rising stream of dividend income.

"While the majority of our operating season is still ahead of us, based on early season trends and confidence in our business model, we believe we are well positioned to deliver another outstanding year in 2018," CEO Richard Zimmerman said in a press release. "We remain confident in our ability to maintain the growth trajectory we have produced for the past several years, which supports our commitment to a steady 4% increase in our annual distribution rate going forward."

Joe Tenebruso has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Cedar Fair. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.