Inquest to slow Dreamworld visits: Ardent
Ardent Leisure says upcoming coroner's inquest hearings into the 2016 Dreamworld tragedy will have an effect on efforts to encourage visitors back to the struggling Gold Coast theme park.
Ardent on Wednesday widened its full-year loss, after writing down the value of Dreamworld by $75 million and taking a $6.2 million hit from costs associated with the accident that claimed four lives in October, 2016.
The theme parks and entertainment centres operator reported a net loss of $90.7 million for the year to June 26, compared to a $63 million loss a year earlier.
But the company said it has struggled to restore visitor numbers at Dreamworld, with attendance dropping in 2017/18 to 1.658 million visits from 1.663 milllion the year before.
The first part of a coronial inquest into the accident was held in June and will resume for two further sittings in October and November.
Theme parks acting CEO Nicole Noye expects the inquests will lead to lower visitation numbers, despite significant safety measures introduced in July.
"Going forward, unfortunately its a week-by-week focus for us until we get through the next few months," Ms Noye said in a call to analysts on Thursday.
"We've implemented in the last week 'adults pay kids prices' (promotion) just to drive the visitation."
Ardent reported a five per cent drop in revenue to $555.1 million, in line with a trading update last month.
That figure includes contributions from Ardent's marinas and bowling businesses, which were sold during the year.
The theme parks division, consisting of Dreamworld, WhiteWater World and SkyPoint, reported an earnings loss of $91.1 million, slightly better than the $98.4 million loss a year earlier.
Ardent also took a non-cash impairment of $28.4 million related to five leisure centres in the US.
As a result, underlying earnings at its Main Event division - which operates 41 bowling and games centres across the US - slid 64 per cent from a year ago to 11.9 million.
The company expects to sharply lower annual group office costs to between $9 million and $10 million, from $15.5 million in 2017/18, following the restructuring and divestment of businesses.
Ardent will make a final distribution of 6.5 cents per stapled security, up from 1.0 cent a year earlier and has also flagged a move to a retail calendar for reporting its financials, in order to ensure reporting periods have the same number of days.
By 1345 AEST, Ardent shares were up 2.7 per cent to $1.83 in a weak Australian market.
ARDENT WIDENS FULL-YEAR LOSS
* Net loss of $90.7m vs $63m year ago
* Revenue down 5pct to $555.1m
* Final distribution of 6.5 cents per security, up from 1.0 cent year ago.
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