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Best of Howard Stutz

Gaming Guru

Howard Stutz

Pinnacle hurt by paying off debt

30 October 2009

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- A debt repayment sent Pinnacle Entertainment to a third-quarter net loss, but the Las Vegas-based casino operator grew revenue, primarily through improved results at the company's Louisiana properties.

Pinnacle, a regional casino operator that doesn't own a Las Vegas resort but runs a casino near Reno, said Thursday it lost $21.9 million, or 37 cents per share, in the quarter ended Sept. 30, compared with a loss of $11.8 million, or 20 cents per share, a year earlier.

Pinnacle said its quarterly results included an $8.8 million charge related to the early payment of some long-term debt.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters, whose estimates generally exclude one-time items, expected a profit of 2 cents per share.

Quarterly revenues rose 1 percent to $265.4 million from $262.9 million.

Pinnacle said its results improved at two of its Louisiana resorts, Boomtown Bossier City and L'Auberge du Lac in Lake Charles.

"There were no real surprises in the quarter and we think investor expectations were appropriately set going into today's release," JP Morgan gaming analyst Joe Greff wrote in a research note Thursday.

Pinnacle Entertainment Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Dan Lee said the recession played a role in reducing the company's results.

"We are pleased that consolidated revenues and adjusted (cash flow) grew from last year's third quarter, despite continued softness in the overall economy and consumer confidence," Lee said in a statement.

Lee said Pinnacle is concentrating on opening a second casino in St. Louis next year and construction of a second Lake Charles casino and new resort in Baton Rouge, La.

Macquarie Securities gaming analyst Joel Simkins wasn't concerned about the quarterly loss. He said Louisiana is an important market for the company and it's no surprise Pinnacle is taking steps to expand in the state.

"It is important to keep in mind that resurgent energy prices should ultimately benefit the Louisiana economy in future periods, particularly the company's assets in Lake Charles and Bossier City," Simkins told investors. "Pinnacle is somewhat of a derivative play on energy prices given its exposure to this region."