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It's a Good Time to Invest in Theme Parks

By Rick Munarriz - Feb 17, 2016 at 2:53PM

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Cedar Fair, Disney, and Comcast deliver healthy theme-park results, with SeaWorld and Six Flags about to report.

Source: Disney.

The country's leading theme-park and regional amusement-park operators are starting to check in with fresh financials for the holiday quarter, and the results have been generally encouraging.

Cedar Fair (FUN -0.77%) posted quarterly results this morning. The fourth quarter itself wasn't very special. Revenue inched 4% higher since the prior year, and a small adjusted deficit reversed a year-ago profit. However, most of Cedar Fair's parks are seasonal operations. The holiday quarter accounts for less than 14% of Cedar Fair's annual revenue production. 

The proper way to frame Cedar Fair's financial performance is to view its annual performance, and there we see a leading regional amusement-park operator where revenue moved 7% higher in 2015. A 5% uptick in turnstile clicks was aided by folks paying more to enjoy -- and when possible to stay overnight at -- a Cedar Fair property. Earnings and adjusted EBITDA also moved higher.

We'll get a final snapshot of the regional amusement park industry when rival Six Flags (SIX 3.08%) reports tomorrow, but even the larger national theme-park chains are rolling. Disney (DIS 2.21%) checked in with a 9% year-over-year jump in revenue for its theme-parks division during the holiday quarter. Comcast (CMCSA 1.43%) (NASDAQ: CMCSK) saw its adjusted theme-parks revenue soar by more than 15%.

Disney and Comcast's Universal do a fair amount of business at their year-round parks during the holidays, and both companies saw operating profits at their theme parks grow even faster. SeaWorld Entertainment (SEAS -0.46%) reports next week. 

Analysts see Six Flags following Cedar Fair's performance, posting a small quarterly loss on top-line growth in the mid-single digits. Wall Street sees SeaWorld's revenue climbing a mere 1.2% since the prior-year's fourth quarter, but that would actually represent the healthiest quarterly growth at SeaWorld since 2013.

It's clearly a good time to be in the theme-park business. Gas prices are low, making it cheaper to drive to, or even fly on over to, a gated attraction. The economy's holding up.

It's also been a good time to be an investor in these companies. Cedar Fair, Disney, Six Flags, and SeaWorld all saw their stocks generate double-digit percentage gains in 2015. Comcast was the lone holdout -- its stock was flat like the general market -- but it obviously isn't the theme parks holding the cable giant back.

Naturally, this can all change if the economy tanks, or oil prices move sharply higher. For now, however, the theme and amusement park operators are providing great rides for park guests -- and investors. 

Rick Munarriz owns shares of SeaWorld Entertainment and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Stocks Mentioned

The Walt Disney Company Stock Quote
The Walt Disney Company
$124.26 (2.21%) $2.69
Comcast Corporation Stock Quote
Comcast Corporation
$40.57 (1.43%) $0.57
Six Flags Entertainment Corporation Stock Quote
Six Flags Entertainment Corporation
$24.79 (3.08%) $0.74
Cedar Fair, L.P. Stock Quote
Cedar Fair, L.P.
$44.13 (-0.77%) $0.34
SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. Stock Quote
SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc.
$53.99 (-0.46%) $0.25

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