A screaming World Wrestling Entertainment
OK, I made up most of that. But maybe McMahon should have been crowing, because there are some good numbers amid WWE's bad sales news. Let us take a look, with all the dignity we can muster when discussing a company that turns tidy profits from scripted violence and T-shirts with the U.S. flag overwritten by patriotic phrases like "You Suck."
Over the past quarter, WWE seems to have wrapped a beefy bicep around its costs, turning around after some hard times and building on last quarter's success. Cost cutting is vitally important because revenues were down in almost every segment of the business, falling 15% overall to $79.1 million. Average attendance at live events was down both here and abroad. Ticket prices were down, too, and pay-per-view revenue experienced a big drop due to the scheduling of the latest event, which will be recognized in the next quarter.
All this might spell disaster except that the firm increased gross margins by almost 7% and cut SG&A by 27% so far this year. The company's lean and mean refocus has yielded $46.5 million in free cash flow (FCF) for the first nine months of this year, over three times last year's results -- though it blew $20 million to pay off the lease on the corporate jet. Ouch.
Still, if we assume similar fourth-quarter results and extrapolate the FCF to a run rate of $60 million for the full year (a conservative estimate, since Q4 is usually the biggest quarter), the company trades at an enterprise value-to-free cash flow ratio of 11.3. That's already much cheaper than most of Mr. Market. If McMahon and company can continue to smack down costs, their predicted turnaround in revenues could put WWE investors in a winning position.
If WWE doesn't slake your thirst for smackage, consider joining Fools in the Hockey Fans discussion board.
Seth Jayson is a Motley Fool contributor and used to wrestle in a black mask under the moniker "El Bombastico." He has no stake in any companies mentioned here.