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Speedway Motorsports, Inc. (NYSE:TRK)

Q3 2008 Earnings Call

November 5, 2008 11:00 am ET

Executives

Marcus G. Smith - President, Chief Operating Officer & Director

William R. Brooks - Vice Chairman of the Board, Chief Financial Officer & Treasurer

Analysts

[Joe Latchke – Wachovia]

Jim Costell – Cuyahoga Capital

Gene Fox – Cardinal Capital Management

[Chris Gazzin – Faircourt Valuation]

[Chris Sim – The Shankman Capital]

Operator

My name is Stephanie and I will be your conference operator today. At this time I would like to welcome everyone to the Speedway Motorsports’ third quarter earnings release conference call. All lines have been placed on mute to prevent any background noise. After the speakers’ remarks there will be a question-and-answer session. (Operator Instructions)

As a reminder this calls contains forward-looking statements particularly statements with regard to the company’s future operations and financial results. There be many factors that affect future events and trends of the company’s business including, but not limited to, consumer and corporate spending sentiment, air travel, governmental regulations, military actions, national or local catastrophic events, the success of and weather surrounding NASCAR, IRL, NHRA and other racing events, our relationship with NASCAR and other sanctioning bodies, the success of Motorsports Authentics merchandising joint venture, the success of expense reduction efforts, capital projects, expansion, economic conditions, stock repurchasing, financing needs, insurance, litigation, taxes, oil and gas activities, including the possibility of discontinuing operations, geopolitical situations in foreign countries and other factors that are outside of management’s control.

These factors and other factors including those contained in the company’s Annual Report on Form 10-K and subsequently filed Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q involve certain risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results or events to differ materially from management’s and expectations. Inclusion of any information or statement in this conference call does not necessarily imply that such information or statement is material.

The company does not undertake any obligation to release publicly revised or updated forward-looking information and such information included in the news release is based on information currently available and may not be reliable after this date. Participating in today’s call will be Marcus G. Smith, Chief Operating Officer and President and William R. Brooks, Vice Chairman and Chief Financial Officer.

At this time I would like to turn the call over to Mr. Smith.

Marcus G. Smith

We’re very pleased to announce third quarter 2008 results for Speedway Motorsports. Our nine month 2008 results included record total revenues, record net income and record diluted earnings per share. We also reaffirm our full year 2008 earnings guidance of $2.48 to $2.50 per diluted share. Looking into the quarter despite the current state of the economy we continue to see growth in corporate marketing and other event related revenue for NASCAR and other racing events held this period.

Some of our third quarter highlights include Bristol Motor Speedway where we hosted our 53rd consecutive sell out of the Sharpie 500 Sprint Cup Series event and near record attendance at the Food City 250 Nationwide Series race. The O’Reilly 200 Craftsman Truck Series event attracted excellent attendance as well.

The Chase for the Championship was kicked off at New Hampshire Motor Speedway where despite poor weather conditions we hosted near capacity crowds at the Sylvania 300 Sprint Cup event and near record attendance at the New Hampshire 200 Truck Series event. At our new zMAX Dragway at Lowe’s Motor Speedway we hosted the inaugural NHRA Nationals weekend and it was one of the largest crowds in NHRA history.

Weather was good and we had a very successful weekend by all accounts. At Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California we hosted the Peak Antifreeze and Motor Oil Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma County and we had near record attendance and while Las Vegas Motor Speedway we hosted a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series racing event, the Qwik Liner Las Vegas 350 where we had excellent crowds as well.

Looking at our business trends our three pronged business model of media, corporate sales and admissions is continuing to prove itself as an excellent business model. First our television ratings for the second half of the 2008 season continue to hold up. Our overall year-to-date household ratings are up across the board. The Sprint Cup Series is up 1%, Nationwide 3% and Craftsman Truck Series on the Speed Channel is up 21% in households.

These motorsports events have been aired up against college football, the NFL, the Olympics and the World Series to name a few and we’re pleased that our events continue to please the public. The other story, television and television ratings in our media partnership is that motor racing consumption on all media channels is at an all time high because of the partnership with ESPN, Speed, Fox, Turner and others, more people are consuming motor racing more often than ever before.

That speaks well for our business currently and going forward. In our corporate arena we still continue to see strong business and interest from our partners and new partners. Entitlements for 2009 we’re pleased to say are sold out. The Las Vegas Sprint Cup event was open until we were going to announce a sponsorship today that we’ll be able to tell you more about later, but we’re pleased to say that we’re sold out for 2009 in our Sprint Cup event entitlements with excellent partnerships in place.

We also announced yesterday the extension of our naming rights partnership in Charlotte with Lowe’s Companies for Lowe’s Motor Speedway and we’re pleased to go into our 50th year at Lowe’s Motor Speedway with Lowe’s as our naming rights partner. We continue to see good signs going into 2009. Renewals have been strong this year and we continue to speak with our existing partners and new opportunities across the board.

We have a competitive advantage in the NASCAR world being a low cost of entry into the sport. Our prices have not quadrupled over the last eight to 10 years but they have doubled and the pricing continues to hold up well as we negotiate with our partners and prospects. On the admissions front the economy and consumer sentiment certainly are playing a role. We’ve seen admissions hold steady in some areas and down in most.

We are seeing more walk ups. When the weather is good the walk up crowd responds very well. We did have weather to tackle in the quarter at Atlanta and Bristol. We had rainouts in our qualifying sessions and poor forecasts are never a help when you’re selling tickets to an outdoor event. However our fans’ first initiatives are playing very well with the fans and the media and our partners alike.

As an example in New Hampshire we had a fan appreciation economic stimulus program and in Bristol we’ve offered camping spots for 1999 prices. We’ve got many other special promotions for our fans and they’re responding well to them. In our other business lines Motorsports Authentics is up considerably compared to last year. With operational changes and strong management we’ve managed to show a profit.

So far however we still have a lot of changes and a lot of challenges left to do. Looking to the fourth quarter we have some NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events at Lowe’s Motor Speedway where we capped off our 49th year with a great finish to the Bank of America 500. At Atlanta Motor Speedway we hosted the Pep Boys Auto 500 and ended up with a back flip of Carl Edwards who’s making a solid run for the Sprint Cup Championship.

Remember next year we’ll not be back in Atlanta in October. Rather we’ll be in Atlanta for NASCAR’s very special and historically significant Labor Day weekend race. We’ll be there in 2009 for that Labor Day event. At Texas Motor Speedway we just hosted NASCAR’s largest crowd in the final 10 races of the season, the Dickies 500. For those who watch the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship it’s getting even closer as Carl Edwards pulled out yet another win.

In summary all things considered our business model is proving its strength and our overall business is solid. The characters are developing in the sport, drivers like Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson along with very popular drivers, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. have developed very well in the season, fans are still very avid for NASCAR and drag racing and across the board at motorsports alike.

Each of those drivers are going for the win at every race which ties in very well with our race fans and they’re responding to it. To give you more information on our financial details, I’ll turn it over to Bill.

William R. Brooks

As Marcus mentioned our third quarter was a record, it was excellent despite really turbulent and uncertain economy, we had rain at our New Hampshire event weekend causing a cancellation of qualifying and postponement of a lot of companion events.

However the results of the third quarter as you probably know are not really comparable to those in the third quarter of 2007 chiefly because of the aforementioned New Hampshire races which we did not conduct in 2007, the inaugural NHRA event at Lowe’s Motor Speedway which was new this year and the Bristol Motor Speedway NHRA event which last year was in the third quarter and this year was reported in the second quarter.

Finally last year we had some bad results in Motorsports Authentics which has substantially improved. If we look at our Form 10-Q which we hope to have filed today or tomorrow we reflect pro forma results for 2007 as though the New Hampshire event and the New Hampshire speedway was consolidated with Speedway Motorsports. That result is a $0.21 loss versus the current year $0.16 profit.

Obviously those results in 2007 included some significant losses for goodwill and intangible impairments at Motorsports Authentics. If we adjust those results out we could look at closer to a same store sales but not totally comparable and those results would be a $0.20 per share profit in 2007 third quarter and a $0.16 share profit in 2008. The main reason that it’s different is because of the bad weather as we mentioned in New Hampshire and on those auto fair and several other events. And higher souvenir merchandising costs.

Obviously with the economy being a little tighter we have tried to sell product with less margin or we’ve had obsolescence costs. We also rather unserendipously had high repair and maintenance costs and we had higher depreciation in the quarter and to a lesser extent we advertised more to stimulate fans to come to the races and we had higher property taxes which frequently occur in a down economy. We had high utility costs during the early part of the quarter particularly because of the high fuel inputs.

These matters accounted for most of the difference. That said we were very pleased with the quarter. It was truly excellent in our view. The fourth quarter as Marcus mentioned had some headwinds, two of our Sprint Cup weekends were adversely affected by rain which caused cancellation of Pole Day both at Lowe’s and Atlanta and each of the weekends admissions were somewhat weaker than the prior year attendance.

Concession and souvenir sales which are driven by the number of people at the event for the most part were also behind the prior year. This has been trending pretty much throughout the year in this fashion but it was just somewhat more exacerbated in the fourth quarter. The week before we conducted our event at Lowe’s is an example of gasoline was in very short supply around Charlotte and around Atlanta, around Asheville and Greenville/[Spartford] and other communities in this general area.

We attribute at the time the higher fuel prices and the scarcity of fuel as well as the general economy to causing much of this weakness. But revenues will probably be down 10% to 15% compared to the fourth quarter of 2007. That said we still think overall for 2008 our results will be within the range of $2.40 to $2.50 a share that we announced early in the year albeit the lower end of the range.

We haven’t got any earning estimates available yet for 2009 but we’ll do so when we have our next conference call. As Marcus mentioned however most of our major entitlement sponsorships if not all are sold right now. These contracted revenues along with our broadcast revenues really provide us a stable revenue base to build on for 2009 and that combination of factors mitigate a lot of the headwinds that our company faces just like others.

Looking specifically at the results of the line items on the income statement we have to keep in mind that most of those income statement line items were affected by the conduct of the Sprint Cup and Craftsman Truck events in New Hampshire and by the change in the NHRA events where we had one at Lowe’s this year and one in Bristol last year.

Our admissions for the period increased by $9.9 million or 32.6% over those same revenues last year mostly because of the new event but also because of growth in our NASCAR admissions at the Bristol Motor Speedway. We had some weakness in New Hampshire that we attribute to the cancellation of Pole Day and the poor weather around the event all day.

Our event related revenues for the three months in September of 2008 increased by $4.9 million or about 14.8%. Again a lot of the increase impacted by New Hampshire and the change in the two NHRA events. Our bright spots in the quarter were some of the higher sponsorship and luxury suite rentals associated with our race events compared to last year and those were offset a little bit by the lower concession and souvenir merchandising items that I mentioned previously.

NASCAR broadcast for the three months increased by $11.4 million or 82.2% over the same period last year as expected. Our other operating revenue decreased by $1.4 million or 13.6% from the same period a year ago and that’s primarily because of lower non-event merchandising and somewhat lesser revenues at the 600 racing entity. Moving in that same direction were the other direct operating expenses which decreased year-over-year about $2 million or 18.7% for the aforementioned reasons.

Our direct expense of events increased by $7.5 million or 31.8% over the same quarter a year ago again primarily because had new events and then also as I mentioned we had higher advertising, souvenir merchandising costs and repairs in the quarter. Our NASCAR purse and sanction fees moved similarly to the broadcast revenues increased by $7.9 million or 75.9% over the last year almost entirely impacted by the new events at New Hampshire.

Our general and administrative expenses increased $3.2 million or 16.4% over the same period last year primarily because of the operating costs in New Hampshire and to a lesser extent by the higher property taxes and utility costs that we spoke of. Our depreciation and amortization increased by $1.1 million or 9.5% over last year again mostly from the New Hampshire Speedway which we purchased in January of this year but also from additions to property and equipment at the company’s other speedways and facilities particularly in early 2007.

Our interest expense for the year is $8.2 million compared to $5.6 million for the same period last year and it’s due primarily to increased borrowings in our credit facility to fund the New Hampshire purchase in 2008. As Marcus mentioned our equity invested in earnings were vastly improved from the prior year where this year we had $224,000 profit and a year ago we had about $17.2 million in losses.

Income taxes were about 39.3% this year which is the rate we probably are looking at something like that for the annual period as best we can ascertain it at this time. At this point, Stephanie, I’d like to have you open our call for questions from the listeners. I encourage them to ask any questions they might have.

Question-And-Answer Session

Operator

(Operator Instructions) We’ll pause for just a moment to compile the Q&A roster. Your first question comes from Joe Latchke – Wachovia.

Joe Latchke – Wachovia

Can you give us an update on the closing of Kentucky? Are you still on track to close that at the end of Q4?

William R. Brooks

Yes, Joe. It’s scheduled to close late in 2008, it will probably be late December, 2008.

Joe Latchke – Wachovia

Any update on the antitrust litigation or progress in essentially getting a Sprint Cup event there in 2010?

William R. Brooks

The case as I understand it is still pending in the Court of Appeals. It’s being re-briefed or having all the relevant documents put together to be sent up to the Court of Appeals. As far as I know, they’re still set to hear the case in the Spring and rule on it a few months thereafter.

Joe Latchke – Wachovia

How much does your cost of debt change with the S&P downgrade last week?

Marcus G. Smith

I’m not sure it’s going to change necessarily. As you know both Moody’s and S&P put out a notice that they would think about adjusting our ratings and Moody’s did not and S&P chose to do so. I’m not sure that either one is particularly going to affect our ability to obtain new financing. I think it’s more a function of the markets and they’re pretty disruptive right now.

I don’t foresee a big change between the double B plus and the double B. In addition we don’t have any financial instruments that are adjusted by ratings.

Joe Latchke – Wachovia

Final questions here, congrats on getting all the entitlements for ’09, but can you give us an update on the overall corporate sponsorship environment? Any progress you’ve made in replacing your GM contracts for next year?

Marcus G. Smith

We’ve had pleasing response from our existing partners on renewals, we’ve had good discussions with new prospects for 2009 opportunities. As I mentioned earlier because speedways offer a low cost entry point for brands to get involved in America’s biggest attendance sport and second highest rating sport, I think we’re positioned very well.

Looking at GM and the other manufacturers specifically we did not have a tremendous amount of exposure to the automobile industry. They have been fantastic partners in marketing and certainly have helped the sport tremendously over the decades and we hope that they return to solid footing soon, but from a financial direct perspective we have not had a tremendous exposure to that industry.

Operator

Your next question comes from Jim Costell – Cuyahoga Capital.

Jim Costell – Cuyahoga Capital

Could you in general back of the envelope run us through debt maturities for the next year or so, companies funding including Kentucky and also cap spending back of the envelope what next year looks like and what your needs for borrowing money will be?

William R. Brooks

Our revolving credit facility matures in March of 2010. As we mentioned in our last call obviously the markets are not real conducive to expanding or enhancing these type of instruments right now but we’re pretty bullish that in the next 18 months the opportunities will improve pretty substantially.

We expect to somewhere around $60 million to $63 million and then have some additional direct obligation to the former owners of the Kentucky Speedway in the amount of about $15 million. That’s a total of $78 million, $63 million is borrowed, $15 million is just payable by the company out of its funds over time and half of that amount is contingent. In regard to our senior subordinated notes, those are not due until 2013.

We don’t have any real imminent needs to go out and borrow any money right at the moment. As you can see from our published results we have $350 million outstanding on a revolving credit facility right now and we have $500 million available. In terms of capital projects, this year we think that they will run $75 million to $80 million. We’re hoping that next year will be more in the $50 million to $60 million range.

Jim Costell – Cuyahoga Capital

Following up on the downgrade, it doesn’t affect the availability of credit under the revolver?

William R. Brooks

It does not. The credit revolver cost is really based upon total debt to EBITDA.

Jim Costell – Cuyahoga Capital

Any possibilities of getting some cash back? I realize it’s been written off essentially but from the oil thing?

William R. Brooks

That’s certainly a possibility. We’d love to see that happen and we are vigorously pursuing it but I would not put it into your model at this point.

Jim Costell – Cuyahoga Capital

In other words, you’re at best agnostic that we’re going to be seeing anything out of that in the next year?

William R. Brooks

That’s our best estimate right at the moment.

Operator

Your next question comes from Gene Fox – Cardinal Capital Management.

Gene Fox – Cardinal Capital Management

Bill, could you talk about the implication of the legislation that was recently passed that impacted the depreciation schedule?

William R. Brooks

Historically, the industry used a seven year depreciation schedule to depreciate a lot our speedway assets for tax purposes. That was subsequently reviewed by the IRS after about 20 years of usage and they decided that we should be using a 15 year life instead of a seven year life. Pretty much everyone in the industry changed for prior depreciable assets.

But I think it was in ’05 or ’06 there was an amendment to the law that said for a two or three year period we could continue to use the seven year life. That was set to expire. In the new legislation the seven year life for depreciation purposes for tax was put back in and it will be positive and I believe it’s for the years 2008, ‘09 and possibly ’10.

Gene Fox – Cardinal Capital Management

From your standpoint, Bill, how should we think about that as it relates to your cash tax obligations?

William R. Brooks

Our cash tax obligations have been adversely impacted by slowing down our depreciation for the last four years ending in 2008 which resulted in about $28 million a year more cash taxes than we had paid historically. That will go away next year so that our cash taxes will be a lesser percentage of our book taxes than they have been for the last few years.

Gene Fox – Cardinal Capital Management

Any sense for what that percent is? Historically it would range anywhere from 50% to 75%.

William R. Brooks

I think that’s a fair estimate.

Gene Fox – Cardinal Capital Management

Marcus, can you help us a little bit understanding what the events are we should pay attention to as it relates to incremental corporate sponsorship? We obviously saw that you extended the Lowe’s naming rights. Anything of particular importance that we should be focused on over the next six months or so as the season winds down and we get ready for next year?

Marcus G. Smith

Like I said earlier, I’ve been very pleased with our corporate spending channel and very pleased with our sales team and their good news to us on renewals and extensions of our corporate partners. Going forward, I think what you can look for is the things like our extension of the Lowe’s Motor Speedway contract, the announcement that will be forthcoming a little later today about our sponsorship in Las Vegas and other renewals will have opportunities for us to show growth in that line of revenue and also opportunities for us to expand our business into new areas.

Our corporate partners are great assets for the company not only from a revenue line but also from a co-marketing perspective in selling tickets and speaking to the fans on a regular basis. As we talked about in the past on the corporate revenue channel, the years within a contract tend to be low to mid-single digit in their escalation and when we have contracts that go from a one contract term to a new contract term, they tend to be in the low double digits. When we have that turnover, we tend to see a little bump in that revenue stream.

Gene Fox – Cardinal Capital Management

Marcus, would you say 2009 is a normal year in terms of the number of corporate sponsorship deals that expire and turn over?

Marcus G. Smith

Yes I would and even in the face of the economy, people are not going to stop advertising. We’re certainly not going to stop advertising. It’s how we speak to our fans and the prospective people that come to the events and our other partners are choosing how to advertise and market wisely and we’re very bullish on the value that we represent to corporate America and we’ve seen that play out in things that we’ve already signed for next year and beyond as well as in the discussions we’re continuing to have.

We’re in I’d say a good time right now in our discussions for next year.

Operator

Your next question comes from Chris Gazzin – Faircourt Valuation.

Chris Gazzin – Faircourt Valuation

I have a quick question, you can respond to this any way that you like, but when you look at the stock price of Speedway and you also look at the enterprise value of Dover, the whole thing probably including the debt worth a little over $100 million, for that whole kit and caboodle including the debt.

Is there any way given the financial constraints that our company could potentially capitalize on either our own stock price being so slow or a stock like a Dover being so low?

William R. Brooks

Chris, we have capitalized somewhat on our shares being low by repurchasing shares and we’re trying to be balanced in that because we don’t have a large float of shares relative to the total shares outstanding. In terms of taking advantage of Dover, I think that’s a very interesting observation that you have made and I’m not sure that any type of transaction could be necessarily effective at these prices.

If you were called to have some dissident shareholders that tried to get some movement in terms of having the company marketed or sold and when the prices were much higher and not yet had any success in that endeavor. I’m not sure that even if we had interest that that one is truly for sale even at a higher price much less this lower price. But obviously we monitor it on a regular basis and perhaps some opportunity will present itself.

Chris Gazzin – Faircourt Valuation

The capital expenditure program for next year, is that just basically maintenance spending or are there revenue enhancement?

William R. Brooks

There are both included in there.

Chris Gazzin – Faircourt Valuation

The reason I ask you that is because if I can give you an analogy, here in the Detroit area where I’m located I could probably spend $100,000 to remodel my kitchen and my bathroom or I could buy the guy’s whole house next door for the same amount of money because the real estate market is so depressed.

When we consider what we’re spending on our own facility versus buying back our own stock, I’m wondering how that plays out excluding the idea obviously that we have to spend for necessary maintenance for our facilities.

William R. Brooks

Chris, I think you make a very good point on capital allocation. $27 some million of that capital money is repair and maintenance type money. It’s probably around $3 million or so a year per speedway. The balance is for some revenue enhancements, but one of the reasons we hope to keep it at a lower level is to either retire some debt or to retire some shares. These are both announced strategies that we’ve had.

In the interim, if it does prove that share prices just are down and stay down and there’s some transaction available with one of the other companies that has Sprint Cup racing then we’ll certainly look at it because I think it’s pretty clear we’re on record that we’d be interested in looking at either Pocono or Dover.

Operator

Your next question comes from Chris Sim – The Shankman Capital.

Chris Sim – The Shankman Capital

I was just wondering if you guys gave an organic admissions number for the quarter?

William R. Brooks

In terms of?

Chris Sim – The Shankman Capital

Without the.

William R. Brooks

We hadn’t specifically mentioned that. We were up a little bit in Bristol. The only other main Sprint Cup event we had was New Hampshire and I think it was probably flattish year-over-year. We were hoping it would be up because of the rainout of the Pole Day and rain on Saturday where there’s a big walk up crowd and rain all day Sunday up until race time adversely affected us.

Chris Sim – The Shankman Capital

On pricing, how are you guys going about staying flat or trying to package some deals together? What do you see for 2009 in terms of percent increase or decrease that you’re trying to do with tickets?

Marcus G. Smith

Chris, we are packaging, we’re offering various price opportunities for fans and thankfully our business model with the margins we’re able to put at the bottom line, we have some flexibility in that. What we have found this year is that even in the face of high gas prices and very negative sentiment in the overall public, race fans still come to races and we have a tremendously loyal avid fan base that continues to support us rain or shine, gas prices up or down.

That’s not only the consumer that travels from 300 or 400 miles away to come to a race and stayed in a hotel, but also our very loyal camping customers who continue to come to the events, they’re treated very well and they amaze us by continuing to renew and come to the events in spite of all the negative headwind and even to the point where we have a wait list for many of our events for camping spaces.

Chris Sim – The Shankman Capital

How much do you currently have on your share purchase authorization right now?

William R. Brooks

We have approximately 500,000 shares left on our authorization right now.

Chris Sim – The Shankman Capital

Obviously it’s been brought up about the use of free cash. Are you trying to target some sort of specific ratio for share repurchases and balancing that with debt pay down?

William R. Brooks

Chris, I don’t think we’ve said any specific ratio. I think it’s more opportunistic. I think if we see some weakness in the shares, we’ll buy shares. Alternatively we’ll try to pay some debt down.

Operator

We’ll pause for just a moment to compile the Q&A roster. At this time there are no further questions. Gentlemen, do you have any closing remarks?

Marcus G. Smith

Thank you very much for joining us for our call and we look forward to speaking with you again next quarter.

William R. Brooks

Thank you ladies and gentlemen.

Operator

This concludes today’s conference call. You may now disconnect.

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Source: Speedway Motorsports, Inc. Q3 2008 (Quarter End 09/30/2008) Earnings Call Transcript
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