Amusement parks are fun, but they are serious business. Investors looking at the space should consider industry leader The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS), Cedar Fair, L.P. (NYSE:FUN), SeaWorld Entertainment, and Six Flags Entertainment Corp (NYSE:SIX).
People love to be entertained and there is nothing that gets a person moving like an over 65 mile an hour trip through six “inversions” and a 160 foot drop. That type of heart palpitating action comes courtesy of GateKeeper, a new ride at Cedar Fair, L.P. (NYSE:FUN)’s CedarPoint amusement park.
People love new thrills, and that’s one of the key aspects of the industry to watch. If you build it, they will come. If you stop building, customers get bored. Capital spending is a constant and large line item. A park can go a year, maybe two, without new rides, but not much longer.
Then there is the weather. People don’t like to go to parks in bad weather. And they cut back on their visits when the economy is weak. That can help attendance at regional parks like those run by Six Flags and Cedar Fair, L.P. (NYSE:FUN), but it will curtail in park spending. After admission fees, in-park spend is the big figure to watch.
That said, amusement parks can be fun for customers and profitable for investors. Here’s a quartet to watch.
The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) is probably the best known amusement park operator in the world, but its parks aren’t the most important aspect of its business. So, the company should really be looked at as a media giant that happens to own amusement assets. The real strength in this arrangement is that the company has the unique ability to leverage its media properties throughout its parks. No other company can replicate that to the same degree.
Although the top line dipped in the 2007 to 2009 recession, its been on a general upward course for a decade. Earnings have also been heading roughly higher. The yield at around 1.2% isn’t overly compelling. The shares trade with a price to earnings ratio of around 20, which is about 30% above its five year average. The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) is never a cheap stock, but the shares appear fully valued today.
Cedar Fair, L.P. (NYSE:FUN) is structured as a Limited Partnership (LP). That’s odd for a non-energy related company, which increases company specific risk to some degree. That said, LPs are pass through entities that throw off a lot of income. Cedar Fair, L.P. (NYSE:FUN) yields around 5.9% and has a reputation for running top-notch regional parks packed with thrill rides.