Vail Resorts shareholder payout staying stagnant, for now
Citing instability in the economy, Vail Resorts won’t increase its April payout to shareholders for the first time in nearly a decade, CEO Rob Katz announced in an earnings call on Monday.
Katz said he was pleased to announce the company will indeed pay out common stock dividends again in April, albeit at the same level they were set at in 2019.
“Given the current market instability caused by the coronavirus, we are deferring a decision on our dividend increase until June,” Katz said.
‘A lot of movement right now’
Vail Resorts will pay out $1.76 per share on April 9, according to a recent board decision, Katz said. Since the inception of Vail Resorts’ common stock dividend, 2020 now marks the first year it has not increased.
In 2011, Vail Resorts paid a dividend of 15 cents per share in quarters two and three. In 2012 and 2013, the company paid a dividend of just under 19 cents per share during all four quarters. In 2014, the quarterly dividend payout increased to 41 cents, and it has increased every April through 2019 to arrive at the $1.76 per share the company is currently providing investors on a quarterly basis.
Vail Resorts Chief Financial Officer Michael Barkin said the board expects to make a more informed decision on a dividend increase by waiting until the June quarter.
“I think there’s obviously a lot of movement right now, obviously in financial markets but also just in the economic markets for travel; my guess is probably in a few weeks or a month, things will actually be a little more clear to everyone,” Barkin said. “Today obviously it’s tougher to set that increase without really an understanding of where the economic environment is going to go.”
Post-holiday challenges in Vail
Katz said the biggest challenges to the company’s revenue stream so far this season were due to low snow in the Pacific Northwest, where Vail Resorts owns Whistler Blackcomb and Stevens Pass. The 30-year-low snow totals in that area through Dec. 31 affected that holiday period, and the resorts did not meet financial expectations in January, either, Katz said. In total, visitation at the Northwest resorts was down 14% in the second quarter compared to the prior year.
In a reflection of increasing pass prices, total lift revenue including season pass revenue is up 0.8%, while total skier visits are down 5.2% over this point last season at Vail Resorts’ North American resorts, according to season-to-date metrics provided by Barkin. The Epic Pass just launched at $979 for 2020-21 season, up from a $939 launching price during 2019.
Ski school revenue increased 2.4%, dining revenue decreased 1.4% and rental and retail decreased 0.6% across Vail Resorts’ North American resorts.
Visitation at Park City was strong, Katz said, and the resorts in the Northeast also had good visitation. While visitation was good in Colorado in December, the Colorado resorts were below expectations for the post-holiday period, Katz said.
“Looking over the holiday period, we were not seeing an issue in Colorado. … We felt very good going into it, and then as we came out of it, we saw Park City continue to perform very well, and then we did see some sluggishness,” Katz said. “It’s hard to say exactly what that was — is that overall travel industry sluggishness that I think has continued throughout this year even before we got to coronavirus? Is it the ski industry (comparing itself to) a better year last year? I’d say across our resorts, we saw more strength in Beaver Creek and in Keystone, and softer results in Vail and Breckenridge.”