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Cedar Fair earnings up 9% in third quarter

Revenues up, divident increased

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    Coaster enthusiasts enjoy the Valravn, a dive coaster at Cedar Point in Sandusky.

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    Cedar Fair CEO Matt Ouimet, center, joins Cedar Point employees in Sandusky to help remotely ring the closing bell of a New York Stock Exchange daily session in 2014. To the right of Mr. Ouimet is Richard Zimmerman, who will become Cedar Fair's new CEO on Jan. 1.

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    Cedar Fair's Chief Executive Officer Matt Ouimet.

    Cedar Fair

SANDUSKY — Boosted by an increase in visitor spending, amusement park operator Cedar Fair LP on Thursday reported third quarter profits of $191.3 million, or $3.38 a share, an increase of 9 percent over the same period a year ago when its profits were $175 million, or $3.10 a share.

Company revenues were $653 million, up less than 1 percent from $650.3 million in the third quarter of 2016. And to the benefit of its shareholders, the Sandusky firm increased its quarterly dividend.

On a numerical basis, attendance at Cedar Fair’s three water parks and 11 amusement parks, including its flagship Cedar Point park, actually was down slightly from the third quarter of 2016. Total park attendance was 12.4 million visits for the three months ending Sept. 24, while a year ago it was nearly 12.5 million visits.

But Cedar Fair, based in Sandusky, said 2016 results included visitors at Wildwater Kingdom in Aurora, Ohio, a water park closed permanently at the end of 2016. Without Wildwater Kingdom figures, 2016 attendance would have been 12.3 million visits.

Per capita spending in the parks rose 1.5 percent to a $48.73 from $48.01 a year ago.

Matt Ouimet, chief executive officer, said a commitment to providing a compelling guest experience kept revenues strong right through a just-completed October.

"Attendance and guest spending reached record levels through this past weekend, and we expect that to continue into November and December as we expand our WinterFest celebrations to three more parks this year," Mr. Ouimet said.

Based on preliminary results, revenues from Jan. 1 to Oct. 29 totaled approximately $1.24 billion, up 1 percent or $12 million, compared with the same period last year.

Mr. Ouimet said a company focus on immersive multi-week special events, expanded day-time family Halloween offerings, and more night-time Halloween Haunt events ended up combining with pent-up consumer demand to produce Cedar Fair’s best post-Labor Day performance in company history.

Since the end of the 2017 third quarter, the company has seen a 7 percent increase in same-park revenues compared to last year, a 5 percent increase in attendance, and a 4 percent increase in average in-park guest per capita spending.

Cedar Fair stock rose $2.64 Thursday, closing at $65.45 on the New York Stock Exchange. The company declared a quarterly cash dividend of 89 cents a share, payable Dec. 15 to shareholders of record as of Dec. 4. It was a 4 percent increase in the payout.

Contact Jon Chavez at jchavez@theblade.com or 419-724-6128.

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