Embattled theme park Dreamworld has blamed changes to Victorian school holiday dates for a 30.5 per cent decline in visitors in June compared with the same period last year.
In its monthly update, park owner Ardent Leisure said unaudited revenues were down 35.3 per cent to $4.4 million in the month, compared with June 2016.
Dreamworld owner Ardent Leisure said unaudited revenues were down 35.3 per cent to $4.4 million in June. Photo: Tammy Law
Visitor numbers were up slightly on May, albeit off a low base.
Investors were unfazed, with the share price rising 1.47 per cent to $2.07 a share.
Ardent’s interim chief finance officer, Richard Johnson, said revenues for June were affected by a later start to Victorian school holidays this year – on July 1 compared with June 25 last year.
“This was partially compensated by Queensland school holidays, which commenced on June 24, 2017, compared to June 25, 2016,” Mr Johnson said.
Visitor numbers have been dramatically lower since four people died when a raft flipped on its Thunder Rive Rapids ride last October.
The update comes a week after a company controlled by Aveo’s billionaire chairman, Seng Huang Lee, bought a 5.3 per cent stake in Ardent for $44.6 million. Hong Kong-listed financial group Sun Hung Kai & Co is said to be “friendly” to the Ardent board and is supportive of the group’s plans to expand its Main Event entertainment business across North America.
But Ardent’s newly appointed chief executive, Simon Kelly, also has to contend with major shareholder Ariadne, run by Gary Weiss and Kevin Seymour, who are not seen as “friendly” and are calling for the appointment of new directors.
Ariadne holds 9.6 per cent and has called an extraordinary general meeting for Ardent investors on September 4 to get four of its directors appointed. Such is the animosity between the the two parties, Ariadne has created a website called “fixardent” to coincide with the EGM.
Brokers have also taken the red pen to Ardent after Mr Kelly announced an estimated distribution of 1¢ per stapled security for the second half of the year ending June 30, bringing the full-year distribution to 3¢ a security.
“This distribution reflects lower earnings in the Australian business following the disposal of the Health Clubs division and the impact of the Dreamworld tragedy. Free cash flow generated by Main Event in the US continues to be re-invested in the growth of that division,” Mr Kelly said.
In response, Baillieu Holst analysts downgraded Ardent to a hold from a buy recommendation.
“Our price target ($2.20) continues to include a 10 per cent corporate appeal premium,” the Baillieu Holst analysts said.
“We recently upgraded to a buy but on the basis that Main Event would soon become the dominant asset and that the chances of Ardent becoming a break-up play were high under a new chief executive.
“This view still largely holds but the uncertainty as to the pace of rollouts for Main Event is now unclear pending the current strategic review. This, and a commitment to more maintenance capitalisation for Main Event make for hazardous forecasting in the near term. “