SANDUSKY — Bolstered by customers willing to plunk down more cash at its parks plus a record sale of season passes, Cedar Fair LP’s revenues totaled a record $1.068 billion in 2012. But a soggy fall in areas where its amusement parks are located led to attendance drops that dampened the company’s fourth-quarter performance.
Earnings in 2011 were $1.028 billion.
For the year, profits were $101.2 million, or $1.81 per share, up 43 percent from 2011 profits of $70.7 million, or $1.27 per share.
The $1.068 billion generated by Cedar Fair’s 11 amusement parks, six water parks, and five hotels was the result of in-park spending that grew 5 percent, averaging $41.95 per person and record sales of season passes, which rose 10 percent and for the first time could be bought on an installment plan.
Matt Ouimet, chief executive officer of Cedar Fair, credited the higher spending to e-commerce Web sites the company created to buy premium items, such as Fast Lane passes that allow visitors to jump to the front of a line on some rides, and preferred parking that offered spaces near a park’s front entrance.
For 2013, the company will offer more features, such as installment payment options for its hotels.
In 2011, Cedar Fair had a record attendance of 23.3 million visits and last year, it matched that, Mr. Ouimet said.
The company could have set an attendance record last fall had the weather not turned inclement, the CEO said.
“As we’ve stated in the past, we believe the weather’s impact averages itself out over the duration of a full operating season, but it can impact comparisons when looking at a short period of time,” Brian Witherow, the company’s chief financial officer, told Wall Street analysts on a Tuesday conference call to discuss the company’s financial results.
For the fourth quarter, the company had a loss of $10.4 million, or 19 cents per share, on revenues of $129.2 million. That compared with a loss of $2 million, or 4 cents per share, on revenues of $90.9 million for the same period a year ago.
Analysts typically expect Cedar Fair to have losses in the fourth quarter, which is the company’s worst because all parks but Knott’s Berry Farm in California close after Halloween. But analysts expected the loss to only be 3 cents per share.
The 19-cent-per-share loss caught investors by surprise, and as a result Cedar Fair’s shares closed down 13 cents Tuesday at $38.03 a share in trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
During the conference call, Mr. Ouimet noted that the 2012 debut of a steel rollercoaster, the Leviathan, at the company’s Wonderland park near Toronto caused that park’s attendance to jump sharply, and its average in-park spending was among the highest in the Cedar Fair chain.
The CEO said that for the 2013 operating season, the company again will field a strong lineup of new rides and attractions, led by the $26 million GateKeeper, a new winged rollercoaster that will debut at Cedar Point in Sandusky.
Mr. Ouimet said the ride is on schedule and on budget and a YouTube video of the ride has received 2 million viewings.
“We are positive guests will be talking about this ride all summer long,” he said.
In addition, the company plans to will spend up to $20 million annually the next several years to refresh its hotels and install computerized sales systems at four of its parks.
At this point, Mr. Ouimet said Cedar Fair remains confident it can pay shareholders a record $2.50 dividend in 2013, starting March 25, when it plans to announce a quarterly dividend of 62.5 cents.
Contact Jon Chavez at: email@example.com or 419-724-6128.