SkyCity Entertainment shareholders to meet, S&P expects earnings rebound

Shareholders in SkyCity Entertainment Group could on Friday learn more about lockdown’s toll on the company but a ratings agency says it expects a recovery.

S&P Global Ratings said this week that the company’s operating performance should rebound once its Auckland casino property reopened when alert level 3 restrictions ease.

“That said, prolonged Covid-19-related operational disruptions beyond December 31, 2021, could cause an S&P adjusted debt-to-EBITDA ratio to temporarily rise above 3.0x, outside expectations for the BBB- rating,” S&P said.

It expects a relatively quick earnings recovery when lockdowns abate and it also cited ongoing prudent capital management, which it said should underpin the group’s credit quality.

SkyCity’s Auckland and Hamilton properties remain shut under alert level 3 conditions, but the Government recently announced a move to a traffic-light model, it noted.

The company’s annual shareholder meeting is to be held virtually this Friday at 1pm and S&P stressed it was not issuing a new rating on the company.

“This provides a roadmap to reopening as soon as each region achieves 90 per cent second-dose vaccination. SkyCity Adelaide in Australia is operating under level 1 restrictions,” S&P noted.

SkyCity remains committed to an investment-grade rating, supported by effective capital discipline.

In June last year, it raised $230 million of equity to bolster its liquidity and credit metrics.

“The company has solid liquidity with cash and undrawn facilities of about $250m and reported an S&P adjusted debt-to-EBITDA ratio of 2.0x as of June 30, 2021,” S&P said.

“SkyCity’s solid operating performance in fiscal 2021 reinforces our view of the quality of the company’s long-term monopoly positions in New Zealand and in Adelaide.

“The main gaming floor at SkyCity’s flagship Auckland casino recovered quicker than we anticipated, approaching pre-Covid levels during fiscal 2021. Similarly, SkyCity Adelaide rebounded strongly. Electronic gaming machine revenues proved particularly resilient,” S&P said.

The Herald also reported this month how extended lockdowns have meant operating earnings, previously expected of $261m were forecast to be only $206m – a $55m hit.

Adrian Allbon, a Jarden Securities analyst, released a new update saying initial outlooks for how long its Auckland and Hamilton properties would be shut had forecast much shorter times.

But now it was clear the lockdowns were going to be so much longer, he sliced EBITDA forecasts by a savage $55m or 21 per cent.

SkyCity could not comment on the research because its AGM is too close.

In late August when SkyCity released its full-year 2021 result, Allbon said Jarden assumed four- to six-week alert level 3 and 4 lockdowns.

Earnings from Auckland were expected to be $209m for the year to June 30, 2022. Allbon has revised that down to $158.8m.

Hamilton earnings were expected to be $33.6m. That’s now cut to $29.5m.

The company had been holding around $100m of EBITDA as a buffer but Allbon questioned whether that was still the case. He wonders too if the company is talking to its bankers.

“With an extended New Zealand lockdown now a reality, our revised FY22 estimate suggests this buffer is now mostly consumed and we would expect management to be working with the company’s debt providers on waiver flexibility,” Allbon said.

On October 3, SkyCity said it would close its Hamilton casino after the Government announcement on the Waikato.

SkyCity Auckland has been closed since August. Only the company’s Queenstown casino remains open in New Zealand.

“SkyCity’s businesses outside of New Zealand – SkyCity Adelaide and SkyCity online casino – are unaffected by the latest restrictions in New Zealand. SkyCity Adelaide remains open with physical distancing and hygiene requirements already in place,” the company said.

But Adelaide has been closed in South Australia lockdowns before New Zealand ushered in the latest lockdowns.

Shares are today trading around $3.20.

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