Night­mare not over yet

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - TREVOR CHAP­PELL

Townsville AR­DENT Leisure has said it will take at least an­other year for its Dream­world theme park to re­cover from an ac­ci­dent that killed four peo­ple there in 2016.

Chief ex­ec­u­tive Si­mon Kelly, who took the helm at the en­ter­tain­ment group in July, said ex­perts had con­ducted ex­haus­tive op­er­a­tional and safety re­views at Dream­world since last October’s ac­ci­dent on the Thunder River Rapids ride.

“We’re very con­fi­dent that today Dream­world is one of the safest theme parks in the world,” Mr Kelly said yes­ter­day.

“We ex­pect re­cov­ery of the park will take around two years ( from last October) and is largely on track.”

The Gold Coast park and ad­join­ing WhiteWater World were closed for 45 days fol­low­ing the ac­ci­dent and, when Dream­world re­opened, visi­tor numbers plunged.

Ar­dent yes­ter­day said it ex­pected core earn­ings be­fore in­ter­est, tax, de­pre­ci­a­tion and amor­ti­sa­tion of $ 76 mil­lion for its full year when it re­leases its re­sults on Au­gust 31 – slightly ahead of its guid­ance range of $ 73 mil­lion to $ 75 mil­lion.

But the Dream­world clo­sure and drop in vis­i­tors is likely to reduce group rev­enue by nearly 15 per cent to $ 586 mil­lion.

Ar­dent said its theme parks op­er­a­tions likely suf­fered a 34 per cent fall in rev­enue to $ 70.9 mil­lion and an earn­ings loss of $ 3.4 mil­lion.

It said the group- wide earn­ings lift was driven by a bet­terthan- ex­pected fin­ish to the fi­nan­cial year at its US- based Main Event bowl­ing, gam­ing and din­ing cen­tres.

Main Event rev­enue rose 30 per cent to $ US226.2 mil­lion ($ 288.1 mil­lion) as new cen­tres opened, but de­spite the rev­enue in­crease, earn­ings lifted only 5.6 per cent and mar­gins fell.

Rev­enue for Ar­dent’s bowl­ing and en­ter­tain­ment cen­tres in Aus­tralia fell 2.2 per cent to $ 127.7 mil­lion, im­pacted by the clo­sure of Mel­bourne’s King­pin Crown for ren­o­va­tion.

Mr Kelly said Main Event’s re­sults were dis­ap­point­ing, and Dream­world had faced chal­leng­ing trad­ing since re­open­ing but was on the path to re­cov­ery.

“From my rel­a­tively early days in the busi­ness, it is clear that there are many op­por­tu­ni­ties for us to do bet­ter,” he said.

The Ar­dent Leisure board can ex­pect to face rebel share­hold­ers call­ing for a board spill at a meet­ing set for Septem­ber 4.

In­vestor Gary Weiss and prop­erty de­vel­oper Kevin Sey­mour, who own about 10 per cent of the com­pany be­tween them, claim the group has “lost its way”.

Mr Kelly said he wel­comes in­put from all share­hold­ers.

AN­OTHER YEAR: Ar­dent Leisure, own­ers of Dream­world, say re­cov­ery of the park is ‘ on track’.

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