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Nathan Kawaguchi
Nathan Kawaguchi
Articles  | Author's Website |

Is Town Sports International a Healthy Pick?

February 18, 2010 | About:

As we screen the stock universe for companies that generate a lot of free cash flow, we often come across ideas that have a lot of upside potential coupled with a lot of downside risk. As risk-averse value investors, our first reaction is to pass. But we sometimes buy a small basket of such ideas and treat this basket as one position. We may have come across an idea to throw into our risky basket with Town Sports International Holdings, Inc. (NasdaqGM: CLUB).

Town Sports is tiny compared to many stocks, with a market cap of about $60 million. With a recent stock price around $2.75 and a three month average daily trading volume of about 120,000 shares, smaller investors should be able to find sufficient liquidity.

The Good

Town Sports is the fourth largest owner and operator of health clubs in the U.S. with 166 locations. Its locations are concentrated in and around New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington. Monthly membership dues are about 80% of total revenues and provide a predictable recurring stream of cash flows.

In fiscal year 2008, the company generated $96 million in cash flows from operations (CFO), or $92 million if we exclude changes in working capital. Of the $96 million in CFO, only $33 million was spent on things we would consider maintenance capital expenditures (i.e. repairing and replacing fitness equipment, upgrading information systems and health club remodeling). This left $66 million of what we consider "discretionary" cash flows, or those with which management can redeploy to enhance shareholder value.

The company's 2009 annual 10-K report should be available in the next few weeks, but third quarter numbers showed $59 million in CFO year-to-date ($51 million excluding changes in working capital), with $40 million in capital expenditures (no breakdown provided for maintenance and discretionary capex in quarterly reports).

According to the 2009 proxy statement, company insiders and companies that insiders are affiliated with own approximately 45% of total shares. This creates very large communities of interest between insiders and passive minority investors.

The Bad

Of course, every potential investment has something wrong with it. And Town Sports is no exception. With a soft U.S. economy (163 of 166 clubs based in U.S.), membership and ancillary revenues are down. Because the health club business model has mostly fixed costs and a lot of operating leverage, cash flows are down significantly year-over-year.

With families looking to reduce household budgets in these challenging times, health club memberships are often viewed as discretionary and can be substituted with home fitness, jogging, biking and other activities. Other families facing layoffs are forced to eliminate this expense.

Although the company has generated significant "discretionary" cash flow over the past few years, it has used substantially all of that cash flow for expansion. Not until recently has the company reduced expansion-related expenditures and focused capital allocation on debt reduction and stock repurchases.

The Ugly

Here is the main problem the company faces: as of 09/30/09, the company had $328 million of debt. This included $138 million principal amount of 11% senior discount notes and $180 million term loan facility. The 11% senior notes are due in 2014 and the term loan facility is due in August 2013 if the senior notes are still outstanding at that time. Otherwise, the term loan facility is due February 2014.

How will the company pay this debt down to a manageable level? It could stop expansion-related expenditures (which we recommend in the face of economic headwinds), issue more shares (effectively a highly dilutive debt-for-equity swap), or try to refinance into later maturities sometime in the next few years.


The company's 2009 discretionary cash flow yield should well exceed 30% and could end up much, much higher. Based on fiscal 2008 numbers, the company's discretionary cash flows were about 100% of its current market cap. Should the company stabilize its debt situation and return to 2008 recession performance, the stock could be considered very cheap.

If we take the company's debt into consideration and look at a recent enterprise value of about $375 million, the company could also be considered for a buyout (although this may be difficult considering the large stake by insiders).

Should the company stop expansion-related expenditures and focus on debt reduction, there is still plenty of time to bring debt levels down to a manageable level. The good news is that there is still time with large maturities in late-2013 and 2014. In fact, more conservative investors may want to look into the company's 11% Senior Discount Notes for a more senior position in the capital structure. The last time we checked, they were trading at a large discount and offered an equity-like return.

Our full report and fair value range for Town Sports International is available to All-Access subscribers at IgnoreTheMarket.com.

Disclosure: The author does not currently hold a position in any of the securities mentioned, but has recently published a report recommending a small position in CLUB for aggressive investors.

About the author:

Nathan Kawaguchi
Nathan Kawaguchi is a Research Analyst for IgnoreTheMarket.com. IgnoreTheMarket.com provides independent, value-based stock and mutual fund research, a blog, and acts as a hub for value investing information and research. Nathan Kawaguchi is a former stock broker and has over 10 years of experience analyzing securities.

Visit Nathan Kawaguchi's Website

Rating: 3.6/5 (9 votes)


Health Guru
Health Guru - 7 years ago    Report SPAM
My concern lies with people eliminating monthly gym memberships to save money. The Internet is full of discount fitness equipment that can easily substituted for their expensive gym membership. If you believe the economy will soon snap back then yes it could be a good investment. But I just don't see the indicators that the economy will come back soon.

The past numbers do look promising but this is a whole new economy and who knows what the future for this company holds especially if the memberships continue to go down. That could eat their cash flow very quickly.
Batbeer2 premium member - 7 years ago
... more conservative investors may want to look into the company's 11% Senior Discount Notes ... The last time we checked, they were trading at a large discount ...

11% senior discount notes trading at a large discount...red flag !

Let's say these bonds yield 15%. You need a 20% earnings yield (p/e of five) to prefer the equity.

Market cap of 60m implies earnings of 12m.... and Altman probably doesn't like this stock either.

I don't see a lot to like.

IgnoreTheMarket - 7 years ago    Report SPAM
Health Guru & Batbeer2,

Your comments are noted and very much appreciated. Of course there is plenty to be concerned about with this and many other stocks in this fragile environment. But we are always dealing with probabilities of various outcomes--some good, some bad.

As I stated in the article, this would only be suitable in a very small basket of riskier stocks (the basket equal to one regular-sized position) and only for aggressive accounts.

The main sample portfolio for my website is about 55% cash right now because I am having trouble finding compelling stock ideas... so I do agree with your pessimism in many respects. I also agree with the comment about the bonds, however, I do not currently analyze or recommend individual bond issues on my website.

Many Happy Returns,

Nathan Kawaguchi

Research Analyst

Aragon17 - 7 years ago    Report SPAM

The bad and ugly out weigh the good. Even if they use CFO to pay down debt, the company is going backwards. It could be smaller in 2010 compared with 2007. Their member attrition has been growing for almost 2 years, they admitted they lost their focus on sales, their ancillary revenue has been declining and their expenses have been outpacing declining revenue. With those factors and their no growth strategy it is unlikely it is an attractive stock no matter how you look at it.They have not been clear as to the path of redemption, a sign of a weak senior team. And they are lost in the market place. Lifetime recently showed some signs of improvement and growth, why can they do it and while TSI goes backwards. 24 Hour has taken some aggressive steps to grow their membership, havent seen TSI working hard to gain lost share. Should be interesting to hear what they have to say in their next earnings call.

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GuruFocus has detected 4 Warning Signs with Town Sports International Holdings Inc $CLUB.
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