Show of confidence: Fertittas spend $51M on Red Rock Resorts stock acquisition

Show of confidence: Fertittas spend $51M on Red Rock Resorts stock acquisition

  • Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports
August 20, 2019 9:12 AM
  • Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports
  • Other

In the days after Red Rock Resorts disappointed the investment community with its second quarter results, the Las Vegas company’s largest shareholders spent more than $51 million to show their confidence in the business.

Entities controlled by Red Rock Chairman and CEO Frank Fertitta III and Vice Chairman Lorenzo Fertitta both upped their ownership stake in the company that controls Las Vegas locals’ gaming giant Station Casinos.

According to filings with the Securities and the Exchange Commission, from Aug. 8-9 the Fertitta brothers spent $28.4 million to acquire 1.52 million shares of Red Rock Resorts at an average price of $18.71 per share. Between Aug. 14-16, the Fertittas spent almost $13.6 million on 728,700 shares for an average price of $18.57 per share.

According to SEC filings, the Fertitta brothers control 41.2 percent of Red Rock Resorts – almost 47.7 million shares.

The transactions took place following the company’s somewhat disappointing earnings announcement on Aug. 6, when $11.3 million of start-up costs and higher-than-anticipated operating expenses associated with the $690 million renovation of the off-Las Vegas Strip Palms Resort and Casino drove down quarterly cash flow.

The 800-point stock market tumble on Aug. 15 didn’t help matters.

On the company’s Aug. 6 conference call with analysts, Red Rock CFO Stephen Cootey reiterated the often-stated 18-month ramp up for the Palms, which he likened to opening an all new hotel-casino.

“Like any new project, expenses open much higher than you would normally expect,” Cootey said. “You try to increase customer awareness; you try to make sure that the customer service is actually top notch.”

Following the initially stock purchases, Deutsche Bank gaming Carlo Santarelli said the Fertitta brothers were showing their belief in the Palms project, which was taking place at the same time the company completed a $192 million expansion and renovation at its Palace Station resort just west of the Las Vegas Strip.

“We view the activity as a distinct positive, further supporting the view that management believes the locals market remains, and will remain, healthy and that the Palms redevelopment will find its footing over time,” Santarelli said.

A spokesman for Red Rock Resorts declined comment on the Fertitta stock purchases.

Other analysts were aware of the Fertitta stock purchases but did not file any research notes on the transaction. Shares of Red Rock, traded on the Nasdaq, closed Monday at $19.27, up 53 cents or 2.83 percent.

Much of the investment community focus toward Red Rock has centered on the Palms, which the company acquired in 2016 for $312.5 million.

SunTrust Bank gaming analyst Barry Jonas told investors on Aug. 6 the company’s costs for ramping up the Palms business will continue through the year as renovations are completed.

“We could see a few more quarters of elevated costs until flow through approaches management’s normalized long-term guidance range,” he said.

Still, Jonas said Red Rock’s overall business continues to be strong in Las Vegas.

“(The) core Las Vegas trends appear healthy with Red Rock Resorts continuing to outperform the locals market, which leads the U.S. in growth,” he said.

Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at hstutz@cdcgamingreports.com. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.