Despite being one of the most adversely affected businesses through the COVID-19 pandemic which shut down their theme parks and entertainment venues, Ardent Leisure (ASX: ALG) is recovering quicker than expected, having focused efforts on theme park upgrades and digital gaming channels that will create significant revenue opportunities.
The theme parks operator continues to be restricted by capacity limits across their venues, but according to the Company’s internal metrics it is recovering faster from the pandemic than expected.
For the Half-Year ending 31 December 2020, Ardent has reported $136.7 million in revenue which represented a 44.3% decline on the previous corresponding period (pre-COVID). The Group was further impacted by a snap lockdown in Queensland during the period which saw interstate travel to Queensland halted through the Summer which is otherwise Ardent’s busiest season.
“The preservation of cash, a focus on pricing and product for the local drive market and strong cost management has resulted in the division being cash positive and has positioned us well for the post pandemic recovery,” said Ardent Theme Parks CEO, John Osborne.
“We will continue to focus on providing a safe environment for our guests and team members, enjoyable experiences that encourage repeat visitation and increased spend by our annual pass holders, attracting interstate visitation where border restrictions allow, reducing discretionary costs wherever possible and the successful delivery of projects such as Steel Taipan.”
Steel Taipan is just one of the projects Ardent has been developing through the pandemic, bringing forward construction plans so that the world-first ride will be ready to open and generating revenues once pandemic restrictions are lifted.
The $32m ride will be the world’s first roller coaster that has a spinning gondola attached to the rear of the train and be the Southern Hemisphere’s first multiple launch ride with stall and reversed triple half pipe. The ride is expected to open in time for Summer of 2021/22.
Other theme park upgrades have included refurbishment of their SideWinder roller coaster which has been rebranded as the Gold Coaster, refurbishment of Pipeline Plunge and the total refurbishment of WhiteWater World.
Further tech-based developments have been advanced by Ardent with their new virtual reality attraction Star Wars Dojo rolled out through their US-based Main Event business as well as a new mobile app and website to increase exposure to online gaming trends.
Capitalising on economic conditions in the United States, Main Event has plans to open four new entertainment centres in FY22 where they already operate 44 entertainment venues across 16 States.
Despite a $19.8m EBITDA loss (excluding significant items) for the Half-Year as a result of pandemic restrictions and investment in assets, Ardent retains a strong cash balance of $105.4m as of 29 December 2020.
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