Palace is much more than Black Panther

Carib Cinema, the flagship for Palace Amusement.

Revenues and profit are getting a big lift from the strong showing of the Black Panther movie currently playing at the Palace Amusement cinemas in Jamaica.
The stock jumped sharply in March, more than doubling the previous price of $560. Some investors are of the view that interest in the stock is purely as a result of the movie. While it may be a factor, Palace’s story goes well beyond that.
Although in the public eyes daily, the shares of Palace are not the focus of attention for many . One main reason is the 1,437,000 shares issued by the company, resulting in limited liquidity in the stock. The other is that historically profit can be a bit erratic. Management’s failure to split the stock for greater liquidity only adds to investors’ concerns.
Palace is reminiscent of Lascelles deMercado back in 1983 when the stock hardly traded due to liquidity issues and a lousy dividend policy. Asked then why the stock was so cheap, around $6, a broker responded —no one buys

A seen from Black Panther

Lascelles’ shares. That of course was a terrible error by investors as the stock went on to deliver one of the best returns on the local market with Campari ultimately buying out the company.
Stocks that are not sexy don’t get much attention from investors, but in many cases, these are the ones to record massive gains when the story is fully told. A reader of IC indicated that a look at the last two years’ results revealed flat revenues. That prompted a review of the numbers. The history may not be spectacular but closer examination shows a high degree of attractiveness that is not based solely on the pile of added income Black Panther will rake in.
Revenues have been climbing since 2014 when it reached $833 million, rising to $916 million in 2015, with a slight dip in 2016 to $909 million. Revenues rose 9 percent in 2017 to $990 million and for the half year to December 2017, growth was 11 percent to $493 million with profit rising 138 percent.
Revenues will hit the billion mark for the first time in the company’s history, for the current fiscal year and remain over that level going forward. The performance of the economy is critical to the future fortunes and to a lesser degree, the quality of films. Data indicates that with a tight economy, patronage in Kingston suffered badly with the downturn in the economy from 2008 onwards. At the same time, strong growth, said to be around 7 percent per annum in the Montego Bay economy, showed up in strong revenue gains there compared to Kingston for a number of years. With the overall economy recovering and employment growing, Palace is benefitting and it’s reflected in the numbers to December 2017.

Palace Multiplex in Montego Bay.

Segment results tell the story of the strong impact of the economy on operations. For the six months to December, Box office patronage at Carib Cinema in Cross Roads rose 14 percent to $147 million, while at Palace Cineplex, the gains were 10 percent to $55 million and 8 percent at Palace Multiplex in Montego Bay to $77 million. Sales from the concessionaires surged 29 percent to $80 million at Carib, 22 percent at Cineplex to $27 million and 21 percent to $34 million at Multiplex. The fact that Carib has outgrown the other two cinemas is not an accident but is reflective of the recovery in disposable income of a large number of Jamaicans.
While revenues are on the rise, cost has been kept under control. Direct operating cost increased by 6 percent to $190 million for the quarter and 8 percent for the half year.

Another Palace movie – Bruce Willis and Cole Hauser star in Acts of Violence.

Administrative Expenses rose just 4 percent to $37 million in the December quarter and 7 percent for the six months to $76 million. Depreciation for the six months period rose just 5 percent to $17 million. If the trend continues into 2019 fiscal year earnings should be close to $100 per share range. Prior to Black Panther, earnings were set to reach around $45 per share but the phenomenal success of Black Panther is Projected by IC to push 2018 earnings to be well over $100 per share when the fiscal year closes in June.
The company concluded the year with equity capital of $343 million, borrowings at just $25 million with cash funds of $130 million helping to push Current assets to $242 million as Current liabilities stand at $110 million.
The stock traded at $1,300 earlier in the month is poised to fall back with the lowest offer being $1,000. Palace trades on the main market of the Jamaica Stock Exchange at a PE around 10 times projected 2019 earnings and much lower based on the 2018 earnings.

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