Everybody likes writing about their winners, but it is equally important to understand why failed predictions end up so.
With today’s acquisition offer by Vail Resorts, it should end this particular story – and was I ever wrong about the market valuation of the entity! WB went public in 2010 at $12/share, and they closed today at $36.63 a share, which would be about a 21% compounded annual gain for shareholders. I said when they got public “I might think about buying at $5.30/share”, but it never got close.
Why was I so incorrect with my projections? Putting a long story short, their resort operations ended up producing more profitable revenues than I originally anticipated, coupled with the fact that their capital expenditures remained below their ability to rake in cash flow – their net debt situation has been positive (i.e. net debt reduction) since they went public. With increasing profitability and decreasing financial leverage, I believe the partners of the Whistler-Blackcomb entity have done very well financially.
I never liked the fact that a good chunk of the publicly traded entity only represented a partial amount of the full operation – there was a huge amount of minority interest that would have siphoned a lot of economic upside. There were other residual risks (Whistler is quite developed as it is and there is significant political cost to further development in the area) that made me skeptical of the performance of the corporation. There was also the nagging feeling that the company was trying to cash out on the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.
The takeout price (a combination of roughly half cash, half stock in Vail Resorts) is higher than I would have ever expected such an offer to be. The acquisition is strategic in nature, so Vail Resorts should be able to achieve some sort of cost synergy with Whistler. That said, I’d be happy with the price received.
I have never owned nor shorted any shares of WB, and I am glad to have not!