As many of you know I've been a long time fan of IGT and its past and current management. With the stock plummeting, management needs to pull something out of its bag of tricks in addition to just an aggressive stock buyback. Slot cycles come and go and we are certainly in a trough now. However, there seems to be something more than just an industry slowdown. IGT's share declines are well known and can be seen on the first chart. Less discussed is the lost share in the casino participation space. Most troubling, however, is that share of industry R&D has remained high and has consistently eclipsed ship share since Q4 2005.
- A little context may allay concerns somewhat. It wasn't that long ago that IGT's ship share fell from 75% to below 60% earlier this decade. The company then took the lead in Ticket-in, Ticket-out (TITO) and dominated the technology and the roll-out. Market share climbed all the way to 80% at the height of the cycle in 2003-2004. A similar situation occurred with the bill acceptor in the mid 1990s. History shows us that market share could improve again with the advent of the next technological cycle, Server Based Gaming presumably. That will help. IGT also overcame a huge spurt in video gaming machines when it was primarily a stepper company. A concerted R&D effort led to the market share lead in the video space after the belated start. Finally, IGT blazed a huge video poker path in the 1980s to overtake Bally as the #1, a spot it has yet to relinquish.
- How does IGT ensure that it doesn't relinquish that spot? More R&D may not be the answer. The company is boastful of its significant R&D budget relative to the industry (see the 2nd chart). More importantly, IGT has spent wisely and efficiently, until recently. Prior to 2006, IGT's ship share and share of casino participation games exceeded its portion of industry R&D spend. Could it be that 70-80% market share is not normal for a semi-mature industry? It is reasonable to believe that the pathetic shape of the competition contributed to an artificially high market share. With a revamped WMS, Bally, and Aristocrat maybe 40-50% share should be the target. Acceptance is the first step on the path to recovery. The 2nd step may be to refocus spending. Rationalizing R&D is probably a good place to start. Industry consolidation may be another.