Station Casinos Profit Up, Dividend Raised

Station Casinos Inc. (STN) on Tuesday posted a strong rise in third-quarter earnings as the Las Vegas economy boomed and a California Indian casino managed by Station expanded.

Station, which focuses on the gambling market for local residents, also announced a 20 percent increase in its quarterly dividend Tuesday, making it 21 cents a share.

The company's shares rose 4 percent after the news, which analysts said helped put to bed fears that Las Vegas (search) city growth could be slowing.

Net income at the Las Vegas-based company rose to $29.1 million, or 43 cents per share, from $19.8 million, or 32 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding $2.1 million in development costs, an $800,000 fine to state regulators and other items, the company said adjusted earnings were 46 cents per share, up from 35 cents per share a year earlier and above the Wall Street consensus of 44 cents per share, according to Reuters Estimates.

Revenue at operations open at least a year rose 14 percent to $257.7 million.

Chief Financial Officer Glenn Christenson credited Las Vegas population and economic growth, combined with no new competition in the market for Las Vegas residents, for the revenue growth. Total revenue rose 11 percent to $242.9 million.

Station also benefited from expansion at the Thunder Valley casino (search) in northern California, which it manages.

Thousands of people are moving to Las Vegas every month, increasing the size of the market for locals that is dominated by Station and Boyd Gaming Corp.'s (BYD) Coast chain.

A warning by builder Pulte Homes Inc. (PHI) Oct. 4 that it was cutting the price of its Las Vegas homes sparked fears the local economy was slowing, although some analysts said Pulte had been too aggressive with price increases.

Deutsche Bank analyst Marc Falcone responded in a research note: "Pulte who? No slowdown in this Las Vegas market."

Station shares reached a 52-week high of $50.96 Oct. 4. They were up $2.07, or 4.3 percent, at $50.24 in Tuesday on the New York Stock Exchange (search).

Joseph Greff, an analyst at Fulcrum Global Partners, said population growth, new housing and low Las Vegas unemployment all were positive for Station.

Station's casinos are scattered throughout Las Vegas and focus on city residents, a different market from tourists, who tend to stay on the Strip. It also has a joint venture in the Green Valley Ranch Station (search), which contributed $8.3 million in earnings to Station.

Looking ahead, Station expects fourth-quarter earnings of 48 cents to 52 cents a share, assuming 68 million fully diluted shares. Analysts, on average, expect 49 cents a share.

The casino operator expects revenue growth in the fourth quarter of 10 percent to 12 percent at existing Las Vegas casinos and expects EBITDA of about $94 million to $98 million. Analysts, on average, expect revenue of $247.5 million and EBITDA of $92 million.