The results are in: World Wrestling Entertainment
Net sales for the fiscal third quarter increased 24.6% to $103 million, while operating income rose 67% to $20.7 million, and net income from continuing operations increased 23.7% to $13.6 million, for earnings of $0.19 per diluted share.
For the past nine months, net sales increased 15.2% to $285.8 million. Operating income just about doubled to $55.4 million, and net income from continuing operations rose 67.6% to $36.4 million, for earnings of $0.52 per diluted share.
Looking through the various segment highlights, one can see that just about everything seems to be going WWE's way. Pay-per-view buys, for instance, numbered 1.36 million this quarter versus 1.04 million last quarter. And each individual pay-per-view event enjoyed increases in its buy rate, including Taboo Tuesday, one of the company's newer offerings. WWE continues to believe that an expanded roster of pay-per-view events will drive enormous value to shareholders over time; to that end, a full 16 events are planned for this year.
Live events, home video, licensing, the WWE online shopping site -- you name it: All of these business segments are styling and profiling like the Nature Boy celebrating a moment of victory. Home-video revenues in particular strutted their stuff in impressive fashion -- the increase went from $4.8 million last year to $15.1 million this year.
The cash flow statement shows that net cash from operations increased more than fivefold to $52.2 million, a dramatic rise driven by the effect of discontinued operations and movie-production investment last year. Speaking of which, I am very bullish on the prospects of WWE's movie business; I believe the company will be able to leverage its various broadcasting platforms to provide extremely efficient marketing for its youth-targeted celluloid products. Coming up in May will be See No Evil, starring wrestler Kane. It's a horror film, which is a good thing, since horror sells -- just ask Lions Gate Entertainment
WWE generated $45.5 million of free cash this past quarter. It paid out $33.2 million to shareholders in the form of dividends and retained its financial flexibility even after the checks were cut. Long-term debt decreased, and cash and equivalents increased. The stock currently sports a big yield of 6% based on a share price of $16 (the approximate quote as I write this). I think the company has the potential to become a nice income play over time.
So what's the bear case here? Well, for one thing, interest in wrestling is cyclical -- things could cycle down at any moment. And the entry into the film business does add risk, because, after all, it's the film business -- audiences might not take to the cinematic stories that WWE wants to tell.
Truth be told, though, I think the stock offers a great long-term investing opportunity. I would hold out patiently, however, for a drop in the shares, considering the short-term run-up. Then again, you do have to wonder how long the market will allow the stock to stay at a high yield -- once it becomes comfortable with the notion that the company has the cash flow ability to back it up, the yield could go lower, making the stock something of a value right now.
Wrestlemania is just around the corner, wrestling itself is about to return to NBC for a special event, and Vince McMahon will hopefully rock Hollywood with the WWE film -- so things look quite sweet indeed. Although I've owned WWE shares in the past, I really need to buy some for my portfolio now, as someone pointed out to me. I only wish I had already done so.
Heading down to the squared circle are a few more Takes featuring the WWE:
- Shareholders -- get ready to rumble!
- Yep -- WWE was a stock that took a hike.
- WWE knew when it was time to move on.
- Get the raw numbers from the Fool.
Got something to say, Jabroni? Say it now at the WWE discussion board.