Apollo Global Management is heading for the exit turnstiles. The private-equity firm is abandoning its leveraged-buyout proposal of regional amusement park operator Cedar Fair
As a cotton-candy sweetener, Cedar Fair units are actually climbing on the news.
Cedar Fair agreed to a buyout at $11.50 a unit five months ago, a 27% premium to its price at the time. The company behind several parks, including Cedar Point in Ohio and Knott's Berry Farm in California, was coming off a dreadful 2009.
"Cedar Fair cashed out too late," I pointed out at the time, since Cedar Fair was trading twice as high just two summers earlier. My argument continued:
You also have an industry that's clearly a proxy for the greater economy. If folks are out of work or short on discretionary income, the entrance turnstiles are going to click slowly. Cedar Fair didn't help its own case by slashing its once-hefty payout and buying the unwieldy Paramount Parks chain. However, if the economy does turn the corner next year, as many economists expect, Cedar Fair's roller-coaster havens should be magnets for thrill-seekers and young families with a little extra money to spend on escapism. In other words, Cedar Fair also cashed out too early.
That last point is pushing the units higher today. Cedar Fair was trading above Apollo's proposed buyout price, even without a rival bidder to force Apollo to up its offer. As the months have passed with mostly upbeat economic news, the 2010 operating season promises to be a good one. Analysts see earnings rising 35% to $0.93 a unit this year. Institutional, activist, and individual investors weren't happy with the deal; Apollo is simply saving face by walking away from a deal doomed to be voted down.
Cedar Fair was an Income Investor newsletter service recommendation from June 2005 through the summer of 2008. However, the company's burdensome debt after acquiring CBS's
The amusement-park landscape has changed in recent years. Private equity firms and asset managers have acquired sputtering parks. Blackstone Group
However, the industry also needs to prove itself worthy. Six Flags is trying to poke its head out of bankruptcy. Indoor water-park operator Great Wolf
Nevertheless, the seeds of improvement persist. Cruise operators Carnival
It's a swinging single again -- and just in time.
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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz enjoys taking his family on coaster treks over the summer. He owns shares in Disney. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.