Trading at $23.69 as of Feb. 10, 2003
Something special is growing on the shore of Lake Erie in Sandusky, Ohio. Cedar Point is erecting the world's largest roller coaster, and if you haven't heard of Top Thrill Dragster yet -- you will. Topping off at a stunning 420 feet and maxing out at 120 miles per hour, it will be the next trend-setting record breaker at the 16-coaster amusement park this summer.
The park is owned and operated by Cedar Fair
While you might have a hard time convincing a risk-averse family friend to join you on Top Thrill Dragster, the same fear of steep ascents and near freefall descents does not apply to this conservative investor's approach when it comes to the partnership units themselves.
The company closed out 2002 with an 11% improvement in cash flow on a 5% uptick in revenue. Recession? Bah! It may not amount to much, but that's what Cedar Fair is: a smooth kiddie ride with an all-weather canopy in this wild roller coaster of a market we're in. It's white knuckles, not white hairs.
It is looking for a similar 3% to 5% top-line gain this year. Along with tighter cost controls, improved margins will mean higher earnings in 2003 and that ultimately translates into even more money being distributed to its investors.
Cedar Fair's tax-advantaged structure allows for a meaty dividend. With a juicy 7.3% yield, the units have held up well in bear markets and appreciated comfortably in merrier times. With the distributions reinvested, Cedar Fair has produced a compound annual rate of return of 19% since its 1987 market debut. You could have taken on a whole lot more risk to achieve that kind of return, but why?
Cedar Point is special. I drove my family there in 1997 -- and we live 1300 miles away in Florida. Like so many others, we were smitten right away. It was a case of love at first ride. We went back in 2001 to conquer the awesome Millennium Force. We'll be back in 2004, hitting the company's Knott's Berry Farm in California as well. Count on it.
I can understand if you don't have the same kind of passion for thrill rides as my family. We're members of American Coaster Enthusiasts, and my nine-year-old son will be the first to brag about having ridden nearly 80 different coasters over the years. Our summer treks revolve less around visiting relatives and scenic vistas than deciding which steel or wooden beasts we hope to vanquish. We're a Travel Channel reality series waiting to happen. We were born to ride.
But that's the point with Cedar Fair. The company with the wildest rides is actually behind one of the tamest of investments. Move my love and my money elsewhere? I'd rather Knott. Get the Point?
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