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Published: Wednesday, 3/16/2005

Cedar Fair says revenues rose, profit slipped in '04

BY HOMER BRICKEY
BLADE SENIOR BUSINESS WRITER
The owner of Cedar Point, home of the Wicked Twister, said the acquisition of Geauga Lake helped boost attendance. The owner of Cedar Point, home of the Wicked Twister, said the acquisition of Geauga Lake helped boost attendance.
WADSWORTH / BLADE Enlarge

SANDUSKY - Cedar Fair LP, operator of Sandusky's Cedar Point amusement park and 11 other amusement or water parks nationwide, said yesterday its revenues rose last year but its profit sank.

Further, it had more red ink than usual in the usually slow fourth quarter than in the year-previous quarter.

It also reported to regulatory authorities that it had a "material weakness" in its internal controls, although the firm attributed it to complex tax and accounting rules, not to misconduct. It said it would not, as a result, need to restate earnings.

Chairman and Chief Executive Richard Kinzel told analysts yesterday that he was "generally pleased" with the company's performance last year, including a 3 percent average increase in park attendance that totaled 12.6 million, a company record.

But that increase included a new acquisition, Geauga Lake near Cleveland. Without that park, company-wide attendance dropped 3 percent from the year before, but per-visitor spending rose 3 percent and its hotel and other non-park customer spending climbed 4 percent.

Cedar Fair said its revenue last year was $542 million, up from $510 million despite some inclement weather. Profits, however, fell 9 percent to $78.3 million, or $1.47 a share, from $85.9 million, or $1.67, the year before.

For the fourth quarter, the firm said it had revenue of $68.2 million, up 12 percent from $61.1 million for the same period a year earlier. It reported a fourth-quarter loss of $13.9 million, or 26 cents a share, 29 percent higher than the $10.7 million loss, or 21 cents a share, from a year earlier.

In a teleconference with analysts, Mr. Kinzel said higher gasoline prices this year should not hurt its parks, based on a customer survey. He forecast a 6 to 8 percent increase in revenue for 2005.

He repeated the firm's December announcement that it will invest $83 million at its 12 parks this year, including $10 million at Cedar Point and a $24 million water park slated for Geauga Lake in northeastern Ohio. A big-attraction new roller coaster, such as Top Thrill Dragster, costs about $25 million.

Cedar Fair stock closed yesterday at $31.50, down 6 cents a share, on the New York Stock Exchange. The stock dropped $1.34 a share a day earlier, possibly because of some analysts' concerns, such as a column in the latest issue of Business Week titled "Cedar Fair: The Thrill is Gone."

Contact Homer Brickey at:

homerbrickey@theblade.com

or 419-724-6129.



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