Orient-Express Hotels' CEO Discusses Q3 2012 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

| About: Belmond Ltd. (BEL)

Orient-Express Hotels Ltd. (OEH) Q3 2012 Earnings Call November 2, 2012 10:00 AM ET


Amy Brandt – IR

Philip Mengel – Interim CEO

Filip Boyen – VP and COO

Martin O’Grady – VP and CFO


Joe Greff – JP Morgan

Chris Agnew – MKM Partners

Steven Kent – Goldman Sachs

Amy Brandt

Thanks, Patrick. Good morning, everyone. And thank you for joining us today for the Third Quarter 2012 Earnings Conference Call for Orient-Express Hotels. We issued our earnings release last night. The release is available on our website at orient-expresshotelsltd.com, as well as on the SEC website. On the call today are Philip Mengel, Director and Interim Chief Executive Officer; Filip Boyen, Chief Operating Officer; and Martin O’Grady, Chief Financial Officer.

Before we get started today, I would like to read out our usual cautionary statement under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 in the United States. In the course of remarks to you today by Orient-Express Hotels’ management, and in answering your questions, they may make forward-looking statements concerning Orient-Express Hotels, such as earnings outlook, future investment plans, and other matters that are not historic facts. We caution that actual results of Orient-Express Hotels may differ materially from these forward-looking statements. Information about factors that could cause actual results to differ is set out in yesterday’s news release, the company’s latest annual report to shareholders and the filings of the company with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

I will now hand over to Mr. Mengel.

Philip Mengel

Thank you, Amy, and good morning. Thank you for joining us today to discuss the third quarter operations and the financial report for Orient-Express Hotels. Before we begin our discussion on the third quarter results, I want to briefly address two matters. As previously disclosed on October 18, Orient-Express Hotels Limited received a letter from Indian Hotels Company Limited, containing a proposal by Indian Hotels Company and affiliated parties, to acquire all outstanding shares of Orient-Express at a price of $12.63 per share.

The Board of Orient-Express is carefully evaluating this proposal in consultation with financial and legal advisors and will respond in due course in accordance with the best interest of its shareholders. As this evaluation is currently underway, we are not in a position and cannot discuss or take questions regarding the Indian Hotels Company proposal or related matters today.

Secondly, as we previously announced, the board is conducting a search for a permanent Chief Executive. We are making good progress and we hope to announce our new CEO in the not-too-distant future, but we are not able to comment further today on this topic.

Now turning to our results. We were pleased with the resilient performance of our business in the third quarter, a significant achievement, given the global economic uncertainty and its impact on our industry and on the luxury sector in particular. The company delivered RevPAR gains in every region of the world in the quarter on a local currency basis, excluding the impact of the partial closure for renovation of the Copacabana Palace in Rio de Janeiro.

On the same basis, overall same-store RevPAR in local currency was up 5% from the third quarter last year. North America and Asia Pacific were particularly strong with same-store RevPAR up 12% in both regions. The North American results reflect the early returns from investment at The Inn at Perry Cabin and La Samanna and the continuing strong performance at Charleston Place.

We also performed well in Europe despite poor macroeconomic conditions. Revenue from owned hotels, same-store RevPAR and EBITDA were all ahead of the third quarter last year on a local currency basis. This is impressive, given the financial challenges that Europe has faced and was led by our two recently refurbished Sicilian hotels, Grand Hotel Timeo and Villa Sant’Andrea. RevPAR in local currency for these two properties was up 19% over the third quarter of 2011.

Over the past two years, RevPAR for these hotels has more than doubled, reflecting the quality of our investment and the strength of our marketing presence in Italy, where we now have six properties.

In the past three years through 2012, we’ve invested $225 million in capital expenditures to maintain and to enhance the quality and the earnings power of our luxury travel assets. As a result, Orient-Express is strongly positioned to benefit from economic recovery in our markets.

Capital expenditure for 2012 is forecast at $104 million. These investments are focused on projects that will add incremental revenue and profit through the portfolio in our key regions. Our program of investment in revenue enhancing projects in the third quarter continued with capital expenditure of $23.2 million. The renovations of the Oasis wing at Mount Nelson and the public areas at La Samanna will both be completed this month. And we’ll strengthen those operations during their upcoming high season. The renovation of the main private event rooms at ‘21’ Club has been very well received and has generated a significant increase in forward bookings in the fourth quarter and beyond.

The most significant current investment projects are the renovation of the main building at Copacabana Palace in Rio and the total rebuilding of El Encanto in Santa Barbara. The Copacabana Palace is a premier global property in South America’s most famous hotel. The capital investment is going to position this hotel to maximize performance over the coming years, driven by the upcoming World Cup and Olympics.

The investment is expected to increase RevPAR, as well as ancillary spend at this property. The Copa project includes renovation of all rooms and suites and the arrival and reception public areas in the main building. The temporary closure of the Copa reduced third quarter revenue and EBITDA by $4.9 million and $2.1 million respectively. 54 rooms have been returned to service and the entire project will be completed in early December.

The forward Copa bookings for Carnival in Rio in 2013 are 50% ahead of prior year and we’re anticipating a significant return on investment in Copacabana commencing in 2013. El Encanto a 92-key historic hotel with unparalleled Pacific Ocean views will be completed in the first quarter of next year. This exciting property is expected to be an important contributor to financial returns commencing in the second quarter of 2013 and it will build awareness of the Orient-Express brand in the important U.S. market.

The recent improvement in trading relations between Myanmar and the United States has sparked an increased tourism interest in Myanmar. As a result, we will introduce a second luxury river cruise operation in Myanmar that will commence in July 2013. The new cruiser named Orcaella will supplement our existing hotel and river cruise properties in Myanmar.

As you are aware, part of our capital strategy is portfolio optimization through sale of non-core assets. During the third quarter, we completed the previously announced sale of Observatory Hotel in Sydney, completion of the sale of Westcliff in Johannesburg is depended on regulatory approval as expected during the fourth quarter.

We’ve also made significant progress in strengthening the balance sheet. Net debt at September 30, 2012, was $485.5 million, which was 4.6 times trailing 12-month adjusted EBITDA. This compares to net debt of $726.4 million and a net leverage ratio of 9.1 times at December 31, 2009.

Looking ahead to next year, our current pace forecast shows an increase in hotel revenue of 11%. When considering currency, it’s important to remember that the sharp decline in exchange rate of our key trading currencies, primarily the euro and sterling, reduced U.S. dollar reported revenue by $18.5 million during the first nine months of 2012, compared with the prior year. These exchange rates recently returned to more normal levels. At current exchange rates, the foreign exchange drag with reduced reported revenue and EBITDA in 2012 would not occur in 2013.

I’ll now hand over to Filip Boyen, who will provide more detail about the third quarter operations.

Filip Boyen

Thank you, Philip, and good morning, everybody. As Philip has mentioned, a major feature of the third quarter was the impact of a stronger dollar against many of the currencies that we traded. However, we’ve been pleased with the way that underlying trading local currency has held up. Big spend family travel vacations are back and are now booking six to nine months ahead of travels.

Average bookings spend for this type of customer at the beginning of the year was $9,000 and has increased to an average of $12,000 per booking. Journeys in Peru are booming with this type of business. Our (inaudible) center in Charleston recently confirmed the family trip to Peru for December of next year with a value of $320,000. Recent guests of our properties have included Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, Crown Prince Naruhito from Japan and Aung San Suu in Myanmar.

Weddings are a big part of our company’s business, 2012 was a leap-year, which is regarded as backlog for Italians. So, we are seeing an increase in local wedding business for our Italian properties next year. 2013 is regarded as unlucky in the UK. So we predict that UK wedding market to be softer.

Looking at results for this quarter, revenue in Europe was $83.6 million. In constant currency terms, it was $2.6 million ahead compared to the third quarter of last year, although down $5.4 million, including currency effects. Overall, same-store RevPAR in Europe was up 2% in local currency, but down 7% in U.S. dollars, due to the effects of weaker local currencies. EBITDA for the quarter was $34.5 million, down $2.2 million from the third quarter in 2011. On a constant currency basis, however, EBITDA is $1 million ahead of last year. The increase is led by the two Sicilian properties, as well as Hotel Caruso and Hotel Splendido, offset by some softening caused by a combination of the euro crisis, increased sales tax rates and the Olympics depressing UK outbound travel.

That said, the UK is now officially out of recession and our UK Hotel Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons is reporting a strong increase in demand now that the Olympics are finished. The Italian hotels were $1.3 million ahead in Q3 EBITDA in local currency terms, although they experienced a shortfall of $1.2 million compared to 2011 in U.S. dollars. The increase is led by continued growth from our two recently refurbished Sicilian hotels. RevPAR in local currency for those two properties was up 19% over the third quarter of 2011. This growth was offset by a shortfall at the Cipriani, where there was no Biennale Art Festival this year.

Q3 EBITDA at Reid’s Palace in Madeira was $0.6 million lower than 2011, mostly due to a weakened UK outbound market and reduction in airlift. The future looks brighter, however, as several new air routes have opened from the UK and Germany to Madeira.

Results in North America were positive in the third quarter. Revenue from owned hotels in North America was $21.7 million, up $0.8 million from the third quarter in 2011. Overall for the third quarter, EDITDA in North America grew by 50% to $1.8 million compared to Q3 2011.

Additional international flights to Cancun contributed to a 12 percentage point increase in occupancy at Maroma Resort and Spa, The Inn at Perry Cabin enjoyed 17% RevPAR growth, as a result of the recent refurbishment of the historic wing. These results were partly offset by a $0.2 million shortfall in La Samanna, which experienced a 9 percentage point drop in occupancy, due to disruption during refurbishment of the main lobby restaurant and bar. However, this investment is already showing strong returns with occupancy for the Christmas holiday season at La Samanna at almost 100% with a ten night minimum stay policy in place.

Charleston Place continue to perform strongly with Q3 producing EBITDA of $0.6 million greater than 2011. The hotel is on track to deliver another peak EBITDA this year and its highest occupancy ever.

Our restaurant in North America, the 21 Club was impacted by temporary construction noise during the quarter. However, following the widespread publicity surrounding the 1.7 million remodeling of two private event spaces, future demand is anticipated to be strong.

In South America, EBITDA for the quarter was $1.1 million, a decrease of $1.4 million compared to Q3 2011. EBITDA growth of $0.8 million at Hotel das Cataratas was offset by a $2.1 million shortfall at Copacabana due to the closure of the main building for refurbishment. The main building and 54 rooms have already reopened and it is encouraging that confirms reservations for the New Year celebration at the Copacabana Palace are already at 84%, 33% ahead of last year’s pace. For Carnival next year, our confirmed reservations are 50% ahead of 2012.

Results from our Asian portfolio were also very encouraging. Same-store RevPAR in the region grew by 12% in U.S. dollars, largely due to an 8% increase in ADR. Exceptional demands in Myanmar following the lifting of sanctions resulted in a 36% ADR increase at The Governor’s Residence and a 76% uplift in confirmed Q4 bookings on the Road To Mandalay. Revenue for the third quarter of 2012 was $8.4 million, an increase of 9% from the same period last year. For 2013, the booking pace on the Road To Mandalay is 119% ahead of last year, and nearly all available cabins for Q1 2013 have been sold.

In Southern Africa, third quarter revenues were down $1 million from 2011, largely due to currency effects. However, EBITDA was up $200,000 versus the third quarter of 2011 as costs have been saved. Trains and cruises had a $1 million Q3 EBITDA shortfall to 2011. UK trains accounted for $0.8 million of this decline. All UK businesses felt the decline in demand from the recent recession here and the distraction of the Olympics and the Jubilee celebration.

The UK trains which benefited from strong easy publicity in 2011 had lower charter demand than last year and this combines with the decline in consumer spending resulted in a shortfall. We are experiencing a stronger charter base for 2013.

Our overall market performance versus our concept remained strong with the RevPAR Index of 112, with gains coming predominantly from ADR. Our average occupancy has outperformed the concept.

Looking at the breakdown of our market segments, our third quarter year-on-year mix remained in line with Q3 last year and full year 2011. The transient leisure segment was at 56%, a two percentage point increase over Q3, 2011. Wholesale remained stable at 19%, whilst our group segment decreased from 13% in 2011 to 12% during Q3, 2012. Consortia and corporate were in line with last year at 10% and 3% respectively.

Our geographical mix remains fairly stable. North America increased from 35% for Q3 2011 to 37%. The UK decreased from 19% in 2011 to 18% and the rest of Europe from 29% to 28%. South America decreased from 8% to 7%, whilst Asia increased from 6% to 7%.

We are maximizing opportunities from emerging markets and from October 1 have retained the services of two leading sales representation companies for the Chinese market. And we now have representation in Singapore, Hong Kong, Taipei, Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.

We have also appointed an online agency to implement digital marketing strategies in Chinese as part of our integrated market entry strategy. Also on the marketing front, we commenced work on the next generation of property website, which will begin rolling out in Q4. Built using responsive web design, they are both mobile and tablet friendly and incorporate feeds from all our social media channels. We also passed 100,000 fans on Facebook across the portfolio and more importantly measured high levels of engagement with our focuses.

We have also formalized an associate program where we offer sales, marketing and distribution to an exclusive group of iconic independent hotels and travel experiences. The associate program is an exciting new development that’s from a guest perspective will bring new additions to our portfolio, will leverage our sales and marketing infrastructure and bring in fees that will be channeled into future developing our brand awareness.

Looking towards next year, the early indications for bookings are very positive. Overall, bookings are 11% ahead over the same time last year. On the whole, we were very pleased with the performance in the quarter considering the tough macroeconomic headwinds and the closure of the Copacabana Palace main building. Our tight control on costs has continued, where despite the 8% fall in revenue, adjusted EBITDA margin has only fallen by 0.6% and we are well positioned to drive increases next year across the board.

I’ll now hand over to Martin.

Martin O’Grady

Thank you, Filip. Good morning, everyone. Moving down from EBITDA, our depreciation charge in the quarter was $10.5 million, down $0.7 on last year. Interest expense is $8.9 million, down from $12.7 million last year. Swap termination cost of $1.7 million lower than last year, coupled with lower interest rates and a reduction in net debt of $44 million from the third quarter 2011. There was also $1 million of capitalized interest during the quarter related to the construction of El Encanto.

There was a tax charge in the quarter of $7.4 million, compared with $2.2 million in the third quarter of last year. Last year’s tax charge includes the deferred tax benefit of $4.2 million caused by currency fluctuations. Cash tax in the quarter was $7 million. We are anticipating a tax charge in the fourth quarter of $4 million to $5 million and we expect the cash tax for the fourth quarter of $7 million to $8 million.

For 2013, we are currently anticipating a tax charge in the range of $15 million to $17 million and we expect this to be spread as follows. Q1 would be a credit of $0.5 million to $1.5 million, Q2 a charge of $6 million to $7 million, Q3 a charge of $6 million to $7 million, and finally for Q4, a charge of $3.5 million to $4.5 million. The cash taxes in 2013 we expect to be in the range at this early stage of $17 million to $18 million, spread evenly over the year.

Overall, our adjusted net earnings from continuing operations were $14.5 million, compared to $20.5 million in the third quarter of 2011.

On the balance sheet at the end of the quarter, the company had nearly $102 million of unrestricted cash plus an additional $3.3 million of funds available under short-term lines of credit. Total debt at September 30 was $607 million and our net debt at the end of the quarter, including restricted cash of $20 million, was $485.5 million. And our net debt to adjusted EBITDA pre-real estate was 4.6 times. Our interest cover ratio was 3.9 times.

Our debt maturity schedule including amortization is now as follows. For the balance of this year, $12.7 million, 2013 $90 million, 2014 $157 million, and thereafter $347 million. At the end of September, the interest expense on 51% of our debt was fixed and the average cost of debt including margin was 4%. Weighted average maturity of our debt was 2.8 years.

Turning to cash flows for the quarter, net cash from operating activities was $46 million. There was $23 million investments in the quarter, which included $10 million at El Encanto, $4.5 million for the ongoing refurbishment at Copacabana Palace, $1.5 million for the renovation of La Samanna, $1 million for the remodeling of the banquet space at ‘21’ Club, and $1 million for the Mount Nelson refurbishment of 30 rooms. The balance was for routine capital expenditure at other properties.

Net repayments under long-term financing arrangements during the quarter was $7.9 million, and that comprise drawdowns of $63 million offset by scheduled debt repayments including amortization of $71 million.

In September, we completed the refinancing of €37 million or $47 million of debt outstanding in our two Sicilian properties. This was done with a new €35 million or $44 million tranche of debt from the existing lender to our four mainland Italian properties. This new loan will mature in three years in line with our existing Italian facilities. On the right on the new tranche has been swapped to a fixed rate of 5.6% for the term, and that compares to an all-in rate of 5.5% on the loan that was repaid.

Also during the quarter, we signed an agreement for a $12 million facility secured on the cash flow from our two properties in Bali. That facility is for three years and has a margin of 3.75%. There is no debt currently outstanding on those properties and that amount would be used to invest in improving the properties.

In addition to this refinancing, we also completed the sale of The Observatory Hotel. We had cash proceeds of $42 million, and of that, $11 million was used to repay debt. The sale of The Westcliff in Johannesburg announced last quarter, we expect to complete in Q4, and that’s subject to the completion of the few regulatory condition. That asset is held on our balance sheet under assets held for sale.

Regarding the other refinancing, we have made further substantial progress on a $50 million financing arrangement at the Grand Hotel Europe, which is not subject to agreeing final documentation and satisfaction of certain conditions precedent. Completion is likely to occur in the fourth quarter of 2012 and after repayments of the existing $6 million loan, that loan is going to provide us with $26 million for planned refurbishment works at the hotel and $18 million of available cash.

Finally, with respect to our committed project CapEx, at El Encanto we have a remaining $35 million of investment, of which $28 million will be refinanced – $28 million would be financed under our El Encanto construction facility. We also have remaining $11 million to invest at Copacabana Palace to complete that renovation project and of that $7 million would be financed through the delay draw portion of the property’s $115 million loan facility.

That’s all from me. And now, I will hand back to the operator for the Q&A.

Question-and-Answer Session


Thank you. (Operator Instructions) We will now take our first question from Joe Greff from JP Morgan. Please go ahead.

Joe Greff – JP Morgan

Morning, afternoon, everyone. Question for you on the 2013 total owned hotels, bookings being 11% ahead of where they were last year. If you said it Philip, I didn’t hear it, but is that on a local currency basis, is that a U.S. dollar basis, if you can help us understand that?

Philip Mengel

Okay. That’s on the U.S. dollar basis Joe.

Joe Greff – JP Morgan

Okay. And how much of that is price versus volume?

Philip Mengel

It’s half and half. It’s half volume and half ADR.

Joe Greff – JP Morgan

Got it. Great. All right. Thanks. And then...

Philip Mengel

I would comment Joe that obviously that – this is an early number and it will certainly be volatile as we’ve seen in the past from this time of year.

Joe Greff – JP Morgan

Great. Phil, I appreciate your comments that you started out the conference call with and so maybe I’ll ask it in a way that’s not specific to anything. But maybe as a Bermudan company, can you help define for us what your definition of due course is and whether that definition of due course as a Bermudan company or the OEH’s board views it as different than in 2007? Thank you.

Philip Mengel

I am sorry, Joe. Do you mean due course of timing to provide a response? Is that what you mean?

Joe Greff – JP Morgan


Philip Mengel

I can’t put a specific date on it Joe. As I said, we really don’t want to comment on this proposal at all, but on that limited question, I think that the board is taking advice and would be expecting to provide a response to the proposal reasonably soon.

Joe Greff – JP Morgan

Great. Good luck, guys. Thank you.

Philip Mengel

Thank you.


We will now take our next question from Chris Agnew from MKM Partners. Please go ahead.

Chris Agnew – MKM Partners

Thanks very much. Good morning. In the past I think you’ve mentioned looking at hotel management agreements. Just wondering if there is any uptick there and if anything has changed?

Philip Mengel

Chris, no. I mean, I think we have an active effort to develop the management contract part of our business, particularly targeted to gateway cities and we have had many interesting conversations along those lines. But at this stage, there is nothing tangible to report except we continue to have an interest in developing a management contract presence.

Chris Agnew – MKM Partners

Got you. Thanks. And then, given the strategic interest in the company and I know you’ve identified enough number of strategic initiatives, one identifying non-core assets. I’m just wondering, have you revised in anyway your approach to how you think about non-core assets, or in terms of your own internal return metrics?

Philip Mengel

Well, no. I mean, I think that in terms of unlocking strategic value, that’s the broader question. I think we talked about two important parts of that process so far on this call and portfolio optimization is certainly a key part of that. We have executed on several asset sales and properties that we felt were non-strategic and we will continue to consider asset sales of underperforming properties in locations that we don’t think are strategic to our portfolio and particularly where we believe that the capital can be more productively employed in our core properties.

I think the second aspect is our investment program. The projects that we have mentioned today that are active in the third quarter in Copacabana, La Samanna, Mount Nelson and 21 are good examples, because they are low risk. They’re good payback projects that will enhance the earning power of these properties in the fourth quarter and beyond.

But then I think the third aspect that certainly should be mentioned, I think some of these things that Fil Boyen mentioned relate to management initiatives, and we have many important initiatives well underway that include increased marketing of group businesses that’s aimed at increasing our occupancy in our shoulder season, developing increased resources aimed at new customers from emerging markets that Filip mentioned.

We have a lot of activity in the company on investing in our cutting-edge digital tools, such as our new websites, our revenue management tools, and our customer relationship management databases, and a lot of focus on improving our utilization of digital tools in social media on cross-selling our portfolio. And I think we have had a lot of investment and aimed at increased awareness of the Orient-Express umbrella brand to assure 5-star quality to support our collection of our unique properties. And all these things taken together are aimed at enhanced strategic value of our portfolio. As we think that unlocking value for shareholders ultimately results from increasing return on assets and all of our actions are designed for and focused on improving returns on invested capital.

Chris Agnew – MKM Partners

Great, thanks. And then, I can’t quite remember, have you – outside of deals already announced, have you identified the number of non-core assets that you’re looking at maybe selling?

Philip Mengel

I think in the last quarter’s call, it was sort of vaguely mentioned that we have two or three properties that we are considering as targets of potential sale candidates, if we had the right opportunities.

Chris Agnew – MKM Partners

Great. Thank you very much.


We will now take our next question from Steven Kent from Goldman Sachs. Please go ahead.

Steven Kent – Goldman Sachs

Hi. Couple of questions. I think we’re all focusing in on this that advanced bookings are so much stronger because I guess we’re a little surprised given the commentary that you made just a few months ago where it sounded like things were not going as well. Can you just give us a sense as to how much of these advanced bookings really end up as a percentage of rooms this far in advance?

Filip Boyen

Well, that’s a good question, Steven, because these bookings are first of all based on very small volumes and they are subject to change. And therefore, for the moment, as we said, we’re looking in U.S. dollars at 11% for owned hotels for next year. And I’d tell you that one group confirmation or one series group cancellation can make a major difference there. In America, for example, we’re up 9% and that’s all down to Charleston Groups. In Asia, we’re up 50% – over 50% and that’s all down to enormous growth at the Governor’s residence, which again has only 40 rooms and therefore is very small volume. Italy is up for the moment, but again much too early to say and Maurizio, our VP in Italy will tell you that before February it’s very hard to comment on owned book reservations for this season next year.

Steven Kent – Goldman Sachs

Okay. Thank you.


There are no more questions in the queue.

Philip Mengel

Well, in fact, if there are no more questions at this time, thank you all very much for joining us, and we appreciate your interest.


That will conclude today’s conference call. Thank you for your participation, ladies and gentlemen. You may now disconnect.

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