There are few company names that come to mind when talking about the motorsports industry, and International Speedway Corporation (NASDAQ:ISCA) is one of them. This market giant operates 13 motorsports stadiums, including the infamous Daytona 500 and Talladega Superspeedway and hosts over 100 events during the racing season. The firm relies on the motorsport segment for 70% of its revenue, and is majority owned by the France family, which also owns the privately held NASCAR. However, this once popular sport has lost some of its fame from the 2000s and today, it might not be the most profitable business. Let’s take a look at what might have motivated investment guru David Dreman (Trades, Portfolio) to sell out his company shares.
Back and Forth in a Monopoly
The motorsports industry is a natural monopoly at the local level, since only one racetrack can hold NASCAR events in each market, and until now, International Speedway has won this battle. Nevertheless, over the past five years, this company has suffered under declining ticket and concession spending, due to a weak demographic fan base located in troubled geographies. Although recent racetrack changes and customer stabilization will leave ISCA well positioned when spending power increases once again, this is bound to happen at a slow pace. However, the distinct properties of each racetrack attract high brand loyalty, and have compelled competitors like Speedway Motorsports Inc. (NYSE:TRK) to focus business on completely different markets, therefore posing no real threat to ISCA.
Given that a recession or high oil prices could lead to a strong decline in admissions and concessions revenue, as well as corporate sponsorships, the motorsport giant has been making active efforts to counterbalance its vulnerability. After the 2009 recession cut down on sales by 40% and motorsports lost some popularity, causing ROIC metrics to plummet from 17.7% (quarter four of 2008) to 6.2% in fiscal 2013, ISCA focused on improving its capital allocation strategy. The new Hollywood Casino at the Kansas Speedway racetrack, which the company is building in a joint venture with Penn National Gaming Inc. (NASDAQ:PENN), is one of the measures taken to balance out revenue in case of headwinds.
Valuation and Contracts
One factor that plays in this firm’s favor is NASCAR’s long-term contracts with major TV networks and radio stations. The most recent deal is set to launch in 2015, and will bind the motorsport brand for 10 years to NBC and Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. (NASDAQ:FOX), for a total of $8.2 billion (45% annual increase over the current contract). Although a more stable economic scenario may reignite concessionary spending among customers, and cause the motorsport segment to gain popularity again, the non-existent switching costs and alternative leisure choices could be detrimental to this company. Also, ISCA’s current $87.9 million cash flow will likely be stagnated by the new Daytona Ring Project, which is expected to cost $400 million over the next five years.
Furthermore, concerns remain regarding the company’s growth metrics, especially given their downward trend. For the fourth quarter in 2013, revenue showed negative growth of 0.5%, a downfall which ISCA has not been able to stall since 2007. Operating margins have also fallen by 9% in the past two years (currently at 12.8%), in addition to the below average (2.02%) dividend yield of 0.70%. Added to a premium P/E value of 33.00x trailing earnings, compared to the industry average of 22.40x, I feel bearish about this motorsports giant’s near-term profitability and see some uncertainty in the long-term future.
Disclosure: Patricio Kehoe holds no position in any stocks mentioned.