Six Flags Entertainment Corporation (NYSE: SIX) has announced that 2017 represented its eighth consecutive year of record financial performance as revenue grew $40 million or 3 percent to $1.4 billion. The full-year revenue growth resulted primarily from the success of the company’s pricing strategy and international licensing program, as well as an increase in the number of guests visiting Six Flags parks. Attendance at Six Flags properties in 2017 grew by 1 percent or 0.3 million to 30.4 million guests, driven by the opening of two new waterparks and the continued success of selling season passes and memberships, whose holders accounted for 63 percent of total visitation.
Net income for the year increased by $156 million or 131 percent, driven by a reduction in stock-based compensation expense, an upward adjustment of $85 million as a result of tax reform, and continued operating earnings growth. Diluted earnings per share for 2017 was $3.09, representing an increase of $1.84 or 147 percent compared to 2016. Adjusted EBITDA1 for the full year grew to a new high of $519 million, up $13 million or 2 percent over the prior year, while Modified EBITDA2 for the year was $558 million. Six Flags 2017 Modified EBITDA margin of 41.1 percent continues to lead the industry.
“I am very proud that we have achieved our eighth consecutive year of record performance in the face of unprecedented natural events,” said Jim Reid-Anderson, Chairman, President and CEO. “With our growing Active Pass Base, ongoing price increases, higher penetration of culinary programs, and new international licensing agreements and waterparks, we are very well-positioned to deliver another record year in 2018. We are laser-focused on overachieving $600 million of Modified EBITDA in 2018 and continue to work toward our long-term aspirational goal of $750 million of Modified EBITDA by 2020.”
Fourth quarter 2017 revenue grew $17 million or 7 percent over the fourth quarter of 2016 to a new record of $257 million. The strong revenue growth was primarily driven by a $9 million increase in international licensing revenue and a 7 percent increase in guest spending per capita. Net income for the fourth quarter of 2017 was $98 million, and Adjusted EBITDA of $87 million represented an increase of $12 million or 16 percent over the fourth quarter of 2016.
The company’s Active Pass Base, which represents the total number of guests who have purchased a season pass or who are enrolled in the company’s membership program, increased 10 percent to a new all-time high as of December 31, 2017. Increasing season pass and membership penetration is a key tenet of the company’s growth strategy, providing a recurring revenue stream and a platform to further grow attendance as the company expands its network of parks. Season pass holders and members are the company’s most valuable guests, generating more than double the revenue and cash flow of a single-day guest over the course of a season. They are also the company’s most loyal guests, serving as an excellent hedge against inclement weather throughout the season.
Deferred revenue increased by $18 million or 15 percent over prior year to $142 million as of December 31, 2017, primarily due to a higher level of season pass, membership and all season dining pass sales for the 2018 season.
Total guest spending per capita in 2017 was $41.61, an increase of $0.54 or 1 percent compared to 2016, as ticket price gains were partially offset by lower in-park spending per capita. Admissions revenue per capita increased $0.61 to $24.37 and in-park spending per capita decreased $0.07 to $17.24. For the fourth quarter of 2017, guest spending per capita was $37.90, an increase of $2.51 or 7 percent over the fourth quarter of 2016, driven by both higher realized ticket prices and higher in-park spending.
In 2017, the company generated $275 million of Adjusted Free Cash Flow3 after investing $135 million in new capital projects, net of insurance proceeds. Capital expenditures included the remaining half of the incremental $18 million investment into the company’s new waterpark in Oaxtepec, Mexico. The company also paid $227 million in dividends, or $2.62 per common share for the year, and repurchased $499 million or 8.4 million shares of its common stock, leaving 84.5 million shares of common stock outstanding as of December 31, 2017. The authorized share repurchase amount available as of December 31, 2017, was $343 million.
Net Debt4 as of December 31, 2017, calculated as total reported debt of $2.02 billion less cash and cash equivalents of $77 million, was $1.94 billion, representing a net leverage ratio of 3.7 times Adjusted EBITDA.