Units of Cedar Fair (NYSE: FUN) fell 59.9% in March 2020, according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence. The coronavirus pandemic has not been kind to theme park operators, and Cedar Point is no exception.
Cedar Fair closed all of its in-season parks in March, in two separate waves, and delayed the opening of the remainder. The closings were originally expected to last through March, but management currently hopes to reopen them in May, "or as soon thereafter as possible."
The stock moved down when COVID-19 news brought the broader market down, and up when the general market was rising. But the bad news came in much faster than the good tidings, cemented by Cedar Fair's park closings.
Like many other businesses under the thumb of the coronavirus, Cedar Fair wants to open its shuttered doors as soon as possible. The company's revenue rose 8% in 2019, partly thanks to the acquisition of two Schlitterbahn water parks in Texas. At the same time, earnings increased by just 1% and free cash flows dwindled to just $70 million for the full year. The company can't afford to stay closed for very long, considering its $1 billion in annual operating costs. And the effective dividend yield of 22% is far too generous at this point. Cedar Fair is likely to cut those payouts in order to conserve some much-needed cash.
Fellow Motley Fool Rick Munarriz bought some Cedar Fair shares in the middle of March, arguing that the company should bounce back with a vengeance from the coronavirus crisis. That's a long-term investment in light of a massive short-term challenge. Credit ratings agency Moody's downgraded Cedar Fair's credit due to the coronavirus shutdown, and the company remains on watch for further downgrades. All that being said, Moody's expects the situation to stabilize unless the virus crisis lasts deep into the all-important summer season. That would be good enough for Rick, who would be happy to sit through a couple of lean years before collecting a generous return on his investment in the long run.
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