While in Hot-lanta last month, I checked out a museum show titled Bodies: The Exhibition -- an educational display of specially preserved real human bodies that would make Slim Goodbody blush. A small plaque at the end of the tour detailed that Atlanta-based Premier Exhibitions
Premier displayed fast growth in the first-quarter results it reported last Friday. Sales more than doubled to $5.8 million, as did earnings, to $0.04 per diluted share. On a per-share basis, the company had 30.5 million shares outstanding; that's an increase of about 22% from the year-ago quarter, because of a private placement to raise capital last October. The quarterly press release contained only a full income statement -- for further details, I had to check the 10-Q filing that was also posted Friday.
Premier has about $3 million in cash and no long-term debt, judging by its recent balance sheet. For the quarter, it did report positive earnings but had negative free cash flow of about $2 million, which included negative operating cash flow of $1 million because of a big jump in accounts receivable. The company stated that it fully expects to collect these receivables; once it does, cash flow will improve. It also reported capital expenditures of $1 million as it opens new exhibits in various cities.
I'll stop with the numbers before your eyes glaze over. I'm still hunting for the most recent 10-K filing to get a bigger picture, but the company is young and growing, so it's reasonable to expect it to use capital as it expands, purchases exhibition licenses, and so on.
In addition to the Bodies exhibits, Premier is best-known for its Titanic exhibitions, which more than 17 million visitors have attended so far. These shows are the company's crown jewel, since Premier has obtained exclusive rights to recover objects from the Titanic wreckage off Newfoundland. These recoveries have spawned the related tours, licensing, and merchandise revenue.
The Titanic franchise creates an economic moat for Premier, and the tour operating model could be an appealing business if run properly. For starters, there are the one-of-a-kind Titanic artifacts. Although initial exhibit creation costs are probably high, if related expenses for traveling and tour promotion are kept minimal, admission charges could generate substantial cash flow.
In regard to the Bodies exhibits, Premier has an agreement with another party. Premier pays for the tour design and installation in each city, while the other party covers the start-up and marketing-related costs. While it's definitely a good thing to share costs, the other party gets a bigger chunk of the profits until it recoups its investments. However, the recent 10-Q filing states that Premier gets a bigger cut as the tour grows and time goes on.
There is no pure competitor to Premier, but concert promoter Live Nation
This company doesn't seem to be followed on Wall Street, so it's up to your Foolish self to develop an investment opinion. Growth prospects appear bright, and I will keep an eye on the company to see whether it can develop a track record of positive cash flow growth, whether its two primary exhibitions develop some longevity, and whether management is able to successfully develop future tours. In the meantime, I'll have to go and check out the Titanic tour to see whether it will make Premier king of the world.
Fool contributor Ryan Fuhrmann has no financial interest in any company mentioned. The Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy. Feel free to email him with feedback or to discuss any companies mentioned further.