International Speedway's CEO Discusses Q1 2012 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

| About: International Speedway (ISCA)

International Speedway (NASDAQ:ISCA)

Q1 2012 Earnings Call

April 03, 2012 9:00 am ET


Charles N. Talbert - Director of Investor & Corporate Communications

Lesa France Kennedy - Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

John R. Saunders - President

Daniel W. Houser - Chief Financial Officer, Chief Accounting Officer, Senior Vice President and Treasurer


Stephen Altebrando - Sidoti & Company, LLC

Barry L. Lucas - Gabelli & Company, Inc.


Good morning, and welcome to the International Speedway Corporation First Quarter 2012 Results Conference Call. [Operator Instructions] As a reminder, this conference is being recorded on Tuesday, April 3, 2012. I'd now like to turn the conference over to Charles Talbert. Mr. Talbert, please go ahead.

Charles N. Talbert

Thank you, operator. Good morning, everyone, and welcome to the International Speedway's earnings conference call. We are here to discuss the company's results for the first quarter ended February 29, 2012. With us on this morning's call are Lesa France Kennedy, Chief Executive Officer; John Saunders, President; and Dan Houser, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. After our formal remarks, a question-and-answer period will follow. The operator will instruct you on procedures at that time.

Before we start, I would like to address forward-looking statements that may be addressed on the call. Forward-looking statements involve risks, uncertainties and assumptions. Actual future performance, outcomes and results may differ materially from those expressed in these forward-looking statements. Please refer to the documents filed by International Speedway Corporation with the SEC, specifically the most recent reports on Form 10-K and 10-Q, which identify important risk factors which could cause actual results to differ from those contained in these forward-looking statements.

So with these formalities out of the way, I'll turn the call over to Lesa Kennedy. Lesa?

Lesa France Kennedy

Good morning, and thank you, everyone, for participating on today's call. We have another terrific motorsports season that's now under way. We've been very pleased with Speedway so far and feel like we're off to a great start. We've been following our focused business plan, and we're consistently generating solid financial results. And our first quarter results are no different. With a strengthening economy, we have a great opportunity to grow our business through consumer and corporate spending trends. In addition, we believe the targeted improvements at our motorsports facilities will enhance the guest experience and even further support our growth.

In addition, our highly anticipated Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway opened on February 3, and we've been very pleased with the performance to date. Not only does this strategic investment complement our core business, but it's another innovative way that we are building shareholder value.

So with that, I'd like to thank all of you, and I'll now turn it over to John Saunders.

John R. Saunders

Thank you, Lesa, and good morning, everyone. During our fiscal first quarter, due to the scheduling of the Daytona 500 a week later in February, our Phoenix NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide events were moved to our fiscal second quarter. Other quarter-over-quarter comparisons are outlined in the earnings news release.

We are very pleased with the energy generated from the start of the motorsports season, beginning with the 50th running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona, followed by Speedweeks and culminating with the Daytona 500. All of the events surrounding Daytona were excelling, then the rain-postponed 500 had the potential to dampen enthusiasm.

As it turned out, the decision to schedule the event for the first ever primetime running of the Daytona 500 confirmed what we know about NASCAR. The fan passion and enthusiasm is unsurpassed. We estimated 85% to 95% of ticket holders return for the Monday night must-see event. The television viewing audience was impressive. Without significant promotion, the 500 won the night during primetime among adults 18 to 49, a tremendous achievement on a very competitive night of programming entertainment. The Great American Race outperformed NBC's The Voice, ABC's The Bachelor and CBS's How I Met Your Mother.

This Daytona 500 ranks as the most-watched 500 in FOX broadcast history, with more than 36.5 million unique viewers. While its ratings were below 2011, ISC, NASCAR and FOX are thrilled with the results. It is too early to say if other Sprint Cup events will run on primetime. But the results certainly make a compelling case for consideration.

Subsequent Sprint Cup events have also remained among the top 2 most-watched sports on television, outpacing strong competition against Marquee NBA matchups. The lone exception is Auto Club's rain-shortened event.

The Nationwide Series is seeing solid growth in viewership today. The impact of Danica Patrick running NASCAR full time and exciting racing are influencing viewership and continues to be a positive for the sport. These factors on top of last year's strong broadcast results as well as other dynamics breathe optimism regarding the prospect of NASCAR's next broadcast rights agreement.

Entering into the heart of the NASCAR season, we remain optimistic that economic recovery will continue and not once again be derailed by systemic forces.

We have seen some good news on the economic front: improving job numbers, a strong stock market, better housing market. Yet people's incomes lag behind the buying power experienced 2 or 3 years ago. The current trend with the consumer confidence is slowly moving in the right direction, but further improvements are needed before we see meaningful recovery in discretionary spending.

As we expected, our advanced ticket sales for our Sprint Cup events remained soft, off approximately 8% from last year in both units and revenue. This is encouraging, notable improvement in the declines from a year ago when Sprint Cup advanced sales were off 11% and 12% in units and revenue, respectively. Deferred revenue is up year-over-year when adjusting for the Phoenix event in the second quarter.

As mentioned last quarter, our tracks are only adjusting ticket pricing in targeted grandstand sections. We believe that opportunities exist to increase gate revenues with upward price adjustments after the renewal period as the event date draws closer, and we do not believe further broad-based reductions in ticket prices would drive demand.

For the Daytona 500, the only Sprint Cup points event during the quarter, the weighted average ticket price was relatively flat, down 0.9%. We attribute that slight dip to limited walk-up sales resulting from the inclement weather that was forecasted days in advance. To drive admissions volume, we are solidly focused on enhancing the live event experience for our guests.

We remain convinced that growing the fan experience will lead to increased ticket sales as well as pricing power over the long term. We compete with other entertainment options, such as concerts and other major stick and ball sporting events, for the consumers' discretionary dollar. We must meet the needs of today's consumer to secure and grow market share. Our customers, particularly those that are new to the sport, want easy access to and from a venue, comfortable and wider seating, clean and expanded service facilities, leading-edge audiovisual engagement along with authentic social connectivity. Essentially, fan expectations are rising. We must invest prudently to present a dynamic and ever-inviting live experience.

Our corporate marketing partnership group continues to enjoy solid levels of interest and activity. We currently have agreements in place for 86% of our gross marketing partnership revenue target for fiscal 2012. This is in line with where we were last year at this time.

For the remainder of the season, we have 4 Sprint Cup and 2 Nationwide entitlements either open or not announced. To date, we have seen a mix of both decreasing and increasing pricing and sponsorship. We are seeing solid demand for event media sales, in part driven by the addition of several first-time advertisers on Motor Racing Network. We attribute this demand to corporate advertising expressing confidence with the improving consumer landscape. Typically, measured media will increase first, followed by other forms of marketing partnerships. Based on current activity, we anticipate that we will reach our corporate marketing budget target for the year.

Before I turn the call over to Dan, I want to mention the power of social media has in our sport. During the stoppage of the Daytona 500 caused by the jet dryer incident, one of the drivers who happen to have his iPhone with him began tweeting. By the time we resumed the race, the driver gained over 100,000 new followers. We already have the most accessible athletes in all of sports, and this is just another example. Today, based on a recent study, more than half of all fans now get NASCAR-related information from social media. We, too, are actively promoting our initiatives through social media channels.

For Speedweeks, we had the largest and most expansive social media program in NASCAR history to further engage fans at Daytona and at home. This social media strategy is a continuation of our efforts to make NASCAR more engaging and enjoyable for fans to get even closer to the sport while reaching out to future fans.

Media consumption is changing rapidly. Research reports 31% of NASCAR's fans regularly follow races live on mobile devices, which is up dramatically from 2010 of only 6%. And for the 500, web traffic to set a single-day record for unique users, and total video streams were up 96%. We are encouraged with NASCAR's decision to take over the business operations for its digital platforms in order for NASCAR to achieve optimal exploitation of this valuable online content.

I will now turn the call over to Dan Houser to discuss the financial performance for the quarter.

Daniel W. Houser

Thanks, John, and good morning, everyone. We are pleased with our first quarter results, which exceeded our expectations. Results were impacted by the timing of the Phoenix Spring NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Race weekend, held in the fiscal second quarter of 2012 versus being held in the fiscal first quarter of 2011. In addition, as previously discussed on the last earnings conference call, the expected reduction in estimated ancillary rights revenue also impacts year-over-year comparability. In fact, if Q1 revenue is normalized for the timing of the Phoenix events and the change in ancillary rights, total revenue shows an increase year-over-year.

Other factors contributing to comparability for our first quarter 2012 results include: carrying costs related to Staten Island; non-cash impairment of assets not fully depreciated renewed as part of capital improvements; preopening casino expenses; and the net gain on the sale of certain assets. All of these are outlined in the earnings news release and are included in our GAAP to non-GAAP reconciliation where appropriate.

Let's take a look at the income statement. Admissions revenue for the first quarter decreased to $32.5 million. The decrease is largely attributable to the previously mentioned timing of the spring events at Phoenix. Also contributing to the change was the decrease in the weighted average ticket price for Speedweeks, partially offset by increased attendance for certain events.

The decrease in motorsports-related revenue to $80.7 million was largely attributable to the previously mentioned timing of the Phoenix events as well as lower ancillary rights. To a lesser extent, sponsorship, suite and hospitality revenue for certain events held during Speedweeks contributed to the decrease. Partially offsetting the decrease was an increase in television broadcast revenue. For the quarter, ISC's domestic television broadcast rights were $53.7 million.

The decrease in food, beverage and merchandise revenue to $11 million was primarily attributable to the timing of the Phoenix events. Partially offsetting the decrease were higher catering, merchandising, concession revenues for Speedweeks. The decrease in Prize and Point Fund Monies and NASCAR sanction fees to $25.3 million was largely attributable to the previously mentioned timing of events at Phoenix. Partially offsetting this decrease were increases in television broadcast rights fees for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series events, a portion of which are paid to competitors as part of Prize and Point Fund Monies.

Motorsports-related expense decreased to $22 million, mainly due, again, to the timing of the Phoenix events. Partially offsetting this decrease were increases in expenses related to certain non-event operations as well as events conducted during Speedweeks. Motorsports-related expenses as a percentage of combined admissions and motorsports-related revenue increased to 19.4% for the fiscal 2012 first quarter as compared to 18.3% for the same period in the prior year. The margin decrease is primarily due to the previously discussed timing of events.

Food, beverage and merchandise expense decreased to $7.7 million for the quarter, primarily due to the timing of the Phoenix event. Slightly offsetting the decreases were increases in variable costs associated with Speedweeks sales increases. Food, beverage and merchandise expense as a percentage of food, beverage and merchandise revenue decreased to approximately 70.1% for the fiscal 2012 first quarter as compared to 72.7% for the same period in the prior year. This increased margin is attributable to the increase in catering, merchandise and concession revenues combined with cost containment for certain non-variable costs.

General and administrative expense increased to $23.2 million for the quarter, with the increase primarily attributable to certain carrying costs for our Staten Island property as well as higher legal fees.

The increase in depreciation and amortization expense to $19.5 million for the quarter was primarily attributable to capital expenditures for our ongoing facility enhancements and related initiatives. Interest income was comparable to the same period of the prior year.

Interest expense for the quarter decreased to approximately $3.4 million. The decrease is primarily due to increased capitalized interest for the current period, partially offset by interest on our private placement issued in January 2011. The equity and net loss from equity investments represents our 50% equity investment in the Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway.

Our effective tax rate for the quarter was approximately 36.1%. The decrease is related to the favorable resolution of certain state tax -- income tax items previously accrued. Excluding these items, our effective income tax rate would have been approximately 39.1%. We expect our ongoing annual effective tax rate for fiscal 2012 to continue in the 38% to 39% range.

Income from continuing operations for the 3 months ended February 29, 2012, was $26.8 million or $0.37 per diluted share on approximately 46.4 million shares outstanding. When you exclude carrying costs related to Staten Island, non-cash impairments or track assets and the net gain on the sale of certain assets, we posted earnings of $0.37 per diluted share for the 2012 fiscal first quarter. As described in the release, this is compared to non-GAAP net income for the 2011 first quarter of $0.49 per diluted share.

Now to the balance sheet and future liquidity. At February 29, our combined cash and cash equivalents totaled $98.7 million, current deferred income was approximately $94.3 million, and shareholders’ equity was $1.2 billion. At the end of the quarter, total debt was approximately $346 million, including $152 million in senior notes, $62 million in TIF bond associated with Kansas, $1 million in revenue bonds, $51 million for our term loan on our headquarters office building and $80 million in borrowings on our line of credit.

Subsequent to the end of the quarter, we completed the redemption of all of our outstanding 5.4% senior notes due April 2014. We used additional capacity on our line of credit to retire all of the notes for an aggregate price equal to $87 million outstanding principal and a redemption premium of approximately $9 million, plus accrued interest up to, but excluding, the redemption date. The net redemption premium, associated unamortized net deferred financing costs and unamortized original-issuance discount will result in an approximately $9.1 million accounting charge that will be recorded as a loss on early redemption of debt in our fiscal 2012 second quarter.

We're monitoring the current interest rate environment to potentially refinance the borrowings on the credit line related to the redeemed notes with efficient alternatives that extend a significant portion of our near-term debt maturities.

Our Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway joint venture opened on time and under budget. As of the end of the first quarter, we have funded approximately $134.3 million of the approximately $145 million revised budget we estimate to be our share of the capitalized development cost for the project, which is included on our balance sheet as equity investments.

In addition, we funded certain working capital needs of the project prior to opening which are capitalized. Other startup and related costs through our opening were expensed through equity and net loss from equity investments. Cash flow from the casino's operations will be used, along with equal contributions from each partners necessary to fund the remaining capital requirements. While the casino is expected to produce significant cash flow in 2012, because of these preopening expenses, we estimate the casino to be minimally accretive to earnings for the year.

During the first quarter, we purchased 405,538 shares of our Class A common stock for approximately $10.3 million, bringing the total number of shares purchased from December 2006 through February 2012 to approximately 7.1 million shares. At the end of the quarter, we had approximately $62 million in remaining capacity on our $330 million total authorization.

Returning capital through repurchasing shares and annual dividend payment, which this year I estimate will be approximately $9 million, is an important component of our long-term capital allocation strategy. We are currently buying shares opportunistically based on levels of our share price. I anticipate that we will spend annually between $25 million and $35 million in returning capital to our shareholders.

As it relates to capital spending, for the 3 months ended February 28, 2012, we spent $12.8 million on capital expenditures for projects at our existing facilities. At quarter end, we have approximately $47.2 million in capital projects currently approved for our existing facilities. Major projects include: the reconfiguration and road course construction at Kansas; grandstand seating enhancements at Talladega and Watkins Glen; parking improvements at Daytona; and trackside RV development at Michigan.

As a result of these currently approved projects and anticipated additional approvals in fiscal 2012, we expect our total 2012 capital expenditures at our existing facilities will be approximately $80 million to $90 million, depending on the timing of certain projects. We review the capital expenditure program periodically and modify it as required to meet current business needs.

In terms of our 2012 financial outlook, we are reiterating our full year guidance of total revenues between $610 million and $630 million, non-GAAP earnings to range between $1.50 and $1.60 per diluted share, EBITDA margin to range between 32.5% and 34% and operating margin to range between 20% and 21%.

From an earnings perspective, the fourth quarter will be our most significant, followed by the second, first and third quarter.

In closing, with some help from a yet-long-awaited Main Street Recovery, we're confident that by delivering memorable guest experiences along with attractive pricing and fantastic racing, we'll generate stronger attendance-related revenues as well as bottom line results. We'll accomplish our objectives through a disciplined allocation of our capital.

We have a significant financial flexibility and superior access to the capital markets because of our commitment to being prudent in our capital structure. It also affords us the ability to return capital to our shareholders and continually make enhancements at our facilities to improve the guest experience.

We believe targeted improvements at our motorsports facilities to enhance the guest experience will further support growth. We are in the process of reviewing highly impactful projects that may necessitate an increase in CapEx for a few years, up to $110 million to $120 million annually. But any substantial increase in spending will depend on several factors, such as a stable economic environment, credit availability and preferably, the sale of our Staten Island property. While we focus on allocating our capital to generate returns in excess of our cost of capital, certain capital improvements may not provide immediate positive returns. However, in the long run, these improvements will better enable us to effectively compete with other entertainment venues for consumer and corporate spending. Sound financial policies ensure we maintain a strong financial position that provides us a significant competitive advantage within our industry. We have a tremendous opportunity to see our company grow stronger as we successfully execute our strategic initiatives.

With that, we look forward to speaking with you on our next earnings conference call in July, and I'll turn it back over to the operator for the Q&A portion of the call.

Question-and-Answer Session


[Operator Instructions] Your first question comes from Steve Altebrando with Sidoti & Company.

Stephen Altebrando - Sidoti & Company, LLC

I was wondering if you're seeing any impact from elevated gas prices? And also you had mentioned in the script that advance tickets were off 8% in revenue, and I suspect you would need admissions to be flat this year to obtain guidance. So I'm suspecting there's some more to that, if that's a self-induced, if you're shortening the cycle, if you can give some color on that?

John R. Saunders

Well, with regard to gasoline prices, we're not seeing it show up as a major concern at this point in time, although we are watching it very, very carefully. Events like Talladega, which is coming up, Michigan in June, these are the events where the trading radius is much larger for those venues and where we, historically, when oil prices have been elevated, have seen some impact. So it's not showing up in any data just yet as a significant reason not to come to the events, but as I said, we're watching it very closely. And I'm sorry, I missed part of your second question.

Stephen Altebrando - Sidoti & Company, LLC

Sure. It was about -- in your script, you had mentioned advance tickets bookings off 8% year-over-year. And just wondering, it seems like admissions revenue would likely have to be at least flat to obtain guidance, and I'm wondering if there's something else in there, whether it's self-induced, if you shortened the ticket cycle purposely.

Daniel W. Houser

Well, no. I think -- this is Dan. It's really still more related to people just they're still making their purchase decisions late in the cycle. So we're seeing the momentum later into the process. I think it goes back to some of our comments regarding the consumer confidence and things. What I've been gleaning from some of the articles that I've been reading is that consumers are feeling better about the overall economy and its prospects but not yet feeling better about their own personal situation. And I think for us to see a real kind of sea change in our business, it's going to come whenever we see that inflection. But again, we feel good about being -- our range for earnings for the year, and so we're reiterating that.

Stephen Altebrando - Sidoti & Company, LLC

Okay. And then just last one. Obviously Hollywood Casino got off to a extremely fast start, with lines to enter. But then I suspect there could've been a little bit of a slowdown as people were avoiding the crowd. So I'm wondering if you've seen business kind of pick -- accelerate off of what was a little bit probably of a slower period towards the end of February?

Daniel W. Houser

Again, we are meeting and exceeding our expectations there. Certainly, we expected that was a little bit of a honeymoon right at the beginning and to see a big blast-off, but that was kind of anticipated. We listen a lot to what the Penn folks have to say because they have a lot of experience in this area. Kind of glad that the NCAA Tournament is home and over and the Jayhawks are going home, that their run probably have a little bit of impact over the last week or so with people hanging closer to home to watch their tournament prospects. But again, very, very pleased with the way that joint venture is going.


Your next question comes from Barry Lucas with Gabelli & Company.

Barry L. Lucas - Gabelli & Company, Inc.

I have several, and maybe we could start with you, John. I think you mentioned that in terms of entitlements and the marketing budget, it sort of looks flattish year-over-year. But given the economic improvement and in the light of your comments of measured media improving first, just wondering what the tone of activity is out there, and maybe to put a finer point on it, why aren't you doing a little bit better than where you were a year ago? Why do think you are doing that and why do you think you're not doing better?

John R. Saunders

Yes, I think the tone out there is fairly, fairly upbeat compared to where we were a year or 2 ago. You're right, the measured media is coming back, and typically when that happens in the business, we are able and we're in much better position to grow those positions on to other partnership positions in the business. We are seeing some pricing pressure in some of the discussions downward. And then we are seeing upward pricing discussions. A little bit of a mixed bag, but in total, in either direction, it's a low- to mid-single-digit movement. But as importantly or more importantly, we're seeing returns to the longer-term duration of these contracted revenues. So where we're at last year at this time in terms of our overall target, we are very optimistic that we will sell the remaining entitlements soon. So we feel like we're in a pretty good position, but as the consumer comes back, we're going to see this business come back as well.

Daniel W. Houser

As well, Barry, this is Dan. The impact in the, particularly Daytona, there have been some companies that on a broad basis have pulled back from sports in general. One of them, you probably saw the SBJ article about Bank of America. That was a significant partner for us. That partnership was complete in 2011. There is many reasons there, one being with some of the changes in the banking environment that where the banks were targeting consumers and transaction fees significantly a few years ago with some of the regulatory changes, they now are kind of eclipsed from that as a revenue stream. So they're targeting on different target markets, in addition to their businesses being challenged. There's Home Depot and et cetera. So those have left some vacuums that are big nuts to replace. I think when you -- kind of aside from some of those big sunsets that the activity has been pretty positive. And again, these were all big partners with Daytona, so it's showing a significant impact on that first quarter, and having said that, I think we still stayed pretty close to not far off over the last year. So we think that's a pretty good result.

Barry L. Lucas - Gabelli & Company, Inc.

Great. If I can touch on 2 below-the-line items, one on the Hollywood Casino. Minimally accretive this year. How was the cash flow going to work on that, Dan? And would you expect to see some cash dividends, whether or not they show up in earnings?

Daniel W. Houser

Yes, yes, no. Good question, Barry. We will -- now that it's up and open, we still have funding for the project construction. Well, it's going to make sense from -- rather than sending the cash back upstream and then the partners sending back cash again, we will utilize some of those cash revenues as well as any ongoing partner contributions that we need to in order to pay all of the contingencies and the holdbacks and things like that, which will go on. It's probably going to be 6 months post-closing before everything is paid out on that project. Again, as I mentioned in my remarks that we did come in under budget on that, and it will be $10 million less than we had originally expected. But after that, there's no financing at the joint venture level, so we will -- I mean, both Penn and ISC will start seeing cash flow off of that investment.

Barry L. Lucas - Gabelli & Company, Inc.

Great. Last item, maybe an update on Staten Island?

John R. Saunders

Sure, Barry. This is John. We're essentially where we were on the last call, quite frankly. But we are engaged with a couple of buyers, different buyers. Serious discussions do continue. But as I said 3 months ago, it could be tomorrow, it could be next week, it could be 6 -- we just don't know. But we are in a good position. As we said before, we've completed all of the environmental work, which was a huge enhancement to the property and took down some barriers to getting it fully on the market. So I wish I could give you more clarity than that, but we just simply don't know when we'll get it closed.


[Operator Instructions] There are no further questions.

John R. Saunders

Okay. Well, I'd like to thank everybody for joining us on our first quarter 2012 call, and we look forward to visiting with you on the second quarter in 3 months. Thanks, all.


This does conclude today's conference call. You may now disconnect.

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