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Strong margins in St. Louis and low corporate expense drives beat.


 "As we move further into 2012, we look to build on our record 2011 performance and remain focused on driving shareholder value.  Through the evolution of our mychoice program, additional capabilities within our technology infrastructure, incremental cost efficiencies throughout the enterprise, and execution of projects in our growth pipeline, we believe 2012 will be another year of significant growth for our Company."

- Anthony Sanfilippo, president and chief executive officer of Pinnacle Entertainment

CONF CALL NOTES

  • Remain committed to cost cuts and margin expansion. Feel like there is still room to remove non-revenue generating expenses,especially from marketing.
  • Maintain balance sheet health, liquidity, and financial flexibility
  • MyChoice:
    • Top tier grew 44% in membership YoY
    • 34% of their total members migrated up one tier - with the greatest migration to the mid tier
    • More improvements to MyChoice coming in April
  • Spend per visit were up slightly and trips were down slightly
  • Belterra and St Louis saw an increase in both spend and trips
  • Worth per available room grew 5%.  Consolidated occupancy moved up to 84%.
  • Belterra: 16.1% market share; gained 135bps of market share and was the only property to increase admissions in the market
  • Key takeaways:
    • MyChoice continues to be the focal point of their marketing program
    • Sees increase spend per visit for their loyal players
  • Will start a room refurbishment program at L'Auberge soon
  • Have a hard time growing revenues at Boomtown New Orleans.  They will be implementing some cost controls.
  • Bossier: Believe that the market will continue to be under pressure
  • Belterra: Helped by challenges that one of their competitors faced due to a temporary bridge closure
  • Believe that the VLTs issue in Ohio will get resolved in 2012
  • Garage construction at River City will cause some disruption at the property
  • Boomtown Reno: will get $13MM on closing 
  • Carry costs for AC will be much lower in 2012 and beyond. They are retesting the market for the sale of the asset.

Q&A

  • L'Auberge impact of floor improvements? 
    • 12% of the floor out of pocket in the quarter
    • Cost of additional labor to make up for the disruption
    • Disruption ended right before NYE's
    • This has been the first floor update the property has had since opening 7 years ago
  • Touched a bunch of areas around Lake Charles and will start a room refurbishment in 2012.  The rooms are due for a face lift?  It will have an impact not to have the rooms available all of the time. 
  • They do expect margin expansion in 2012
  • New Orleans: Have seen a tailing off of revenues over the last 4-5 months.  They are very much engaged in driving profitable revenue growth.  Replaced all the carpeting at the property.  They are also continuing to take cost out of the business.  He's bullish on N.O. and thinks that they can do better there in 2012.
  • Minimum $125MM VLT investment required in Ohio.  They will clearly meet/exceed the minimum investment requirement. Still working on scope of the property. 
  • Expect to be open in Baton Rouge prior to Labor day in full fashion - sometime in August
  • The bridge closure hasn't been a windfall but has helped a little
  • River Downs: Market is very much centered around Cincinnati...Will pay attention to what happens in Kentucky and that will impact investment there.
  • Margaritaville will be on their side of the river.  Introduced a new brand concept for Boomtown in early 2011. 
  • In Vietnam, the government is working on finalizing a tax rate for that market, but expect it to be a reasonable rate. 
  • Corporate expense in the quarter?
    • They are religious about removing non-value added expenses, including corporate.  They have also settled a number of items. 
    • In the past, a lot of properties functioned individually and they changed that to allow properties realize improvement by using scale of the organization
  • The Madison house issue was settled and lowered their assessment in AC and therefore will have lower property taxes
  • Big focus on being shareholder friendly. Believe that their current team can handle more assets and leveraging their skill set over a large base of operations.
  • St Louis, 10% decline in YoY expenses? 
    • Have a service pod, based in St Louis, helping all of their mid west properties
    • Thinks that most of the improvements seen so far will be sustainable in 2012
    • Need to take into account some seasonality though
    • Some construction disruption will impact them. They are adding some rooms there - 200 in the 2H of 2013
  • They do not have an obligation to put in any more capital into ACDL.  They do need to raise additional capital ( a working capital facility) 
  • All the changes they are implementing are not one time 
  • They are going out for hard pricing on the River City hotel
  • RevPAR was up 5% in the quarter
  • Belterra's market includes Hollywood, Rising Sun, Horseshoe in Louisville
  • Closely engaged at their online gaming options

HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE RELEASE

  • "Fourth quarter revenue and Consolidated Adjusted EBITDA growth was primarily driven by the continued solid performance of the Company's St. Louissegment, which consists of River City Casino, Lumiere Place and Four Seasons Hotel & Spa.  Operational improvements at L'Auberge Lake Charles, Belterraand Boomtown Bossier City properties, as well as a significant reduction in corporate overhead, also contributed to the results."
  • "The St. Louis segment continued to ramp up during the fourth quarter, with further maturation of River City and expense discipline across both properties."
  • "L'Auberge Lake Charles' fourth quarter 2011 performance is impressive considering the disruption from the casino floor improvements made during the quarter.  We completed the replacement of all casino carpeting and slot bases and renovated the property's high limit slot and table game areas to better accommodate L'Auberge Lake Charles' higher end guests.  As a result of these projects, the property's average slot count was reduced by 203 units or 12.7% during the fourth quarter, including a closure of the high limit slot room for 70 days.  Additional operating expenses were incurred in an effort to minimize the impact of the casino floor refresh program on guest experience."
  • "In the fourth quarter of 2011, Boomtown New Orleans began to face difficult comparisons due to elevated local economic activity created by the Deep Horizon oil spill cleanup and recovery efforts late last year.  We have made significant strides containing costs to mitigate the effects of changing market dynamics in New Orleans, but we recognize additional efforts are needed to drive profitable revenue increases at Boomtown."
  • "Corporate overhead expense reductions were driven by efforts to eliminate non-value added expenses at the Company's Las Vegas headquarters, as well as a ramp up of cost savings related to the Company's shared service center supporting our properties in the Midwest and Louisiana."
  • "In the first quarter of 2012 we will begin the first phase of an $82 million expansion at River City by commencing construction on a 1,700 space covered parking garage. A comprehensive plan will be implemented to minimize disruption to the property during construction of this first phase.  Construction of the second phase, comprising of a 200-room hotel tower and a multi-purpose event center, will commence at the end of 2012 and is scheduled for completion in late-2013."
  • "Opening of L'Auberge Baton Rouge by Labor Day 2012."
  • "Construction on the Ho Tram Strip project in Vietnam by Asian Coast Development (Canada) Ltd., in which the Company acquired a 26% ownership stake in August 2011, also continues to make significant progress.  The first phase of the development, the MGM Grand Ho Tram, is scheduled to open by the end of the first quarter of 2013." 
  • AC update: 
    • "In December 2011, Pinnacle reached an agreement with the Madison House Group to terminate its lease obligations in Atlantic City. "
    • "In December 2011, Pinnacle reached a settlement on property tax appeals with the City of Atlantic City." Which will result in an $8.2MM cash refund in 1Q12
  • Sale of Boomtown Reno expected to close by mid 2012. Buyers have a 1 year option to purchase the gaming license and adjacent land.  PNK no longer expects to close on a separate transaction to sell the access land and will continue to market it. 
  • "During the first quarter of 2012, the Company committed to invest $2.0 million in Farmworks, a land re-utilization project in Downtown St. Louis.  Pinnacle will receive credit for approximately $10 million towards its obligation to invest $50 million in St. Louis as a result of this transaction."
  • "In October 2011, the Company entered into a settlement with the Port of Lake Charles whereby the Company swapped land parcels and will receive $2.5 million of credits on its L'Auberge Lake Charles property rent payments. The Company recorded a gain of $3.2 million in its 2011 fourth quarter operating results related to this settlement. This gain is reflected in write-downs, reserves, and recoveries."
  • 2012 Capex: 
    • Maintenance: $50-70MM
    • Expansion: $230-240MM
  • "Capitalized interest in the 2011 fourth quarter, related to the Company's L'Auberge Baton Rouge growth project and ACDL investment, was $5.1 million."