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Dismal third quarter for World Poker Tour Enterprises

World Poker Tour Enterprises released its performance figures for the third quarter ended September 28, 2008 this week, portraying a continued disappointing decline in revenues to $2.8 million, a marked decrease when compared with the same period in 2007, when $4.4 million was achieved.
 
CEO Steve Lipscomb said the decline was primarily the result of a decrease in domestic television license fees and lower domestic sponsorship fees.
 
Net losses also mounted to $2.5 million (Q3 2007: $2.2 million). Third quarter operating results included a $1.9 million non-cash asset impairment charge related to an investment in Cecure Gaming. Excluding this asset impairment charge, net loss was $2.5 million compared to $2.2 million in the same period in 2007. This was explained as primarily a result of lower revenues offset by lower expenses due to cost cutting measures.
 
Revenues in the first nine months of 2008 decreased to $12.9 million, compared to $16.6 million in the same period in 2007. Net loss in the first nine months of 2008 was $11.1 million compared to $7.8 million in the same period in 2007.
 
Business highlights for the quarter included:
 
* The delivery of three episodes of Season Six of the World Poker Tour television series
 
* The signing of a broadcast license agreement with Fox Sports Network to air 26 all-new, one hour episodes of Season Seven of the WPT television series in the United States, across FSN's national sports cable network.
 
* Continued progress in the development of ClubWPT.com and the WPT China National Traktor Poker Tour
 
* Continued cost cutting measures designed to right size operations.
 
Subsequent to the end of the quarter, WPT began airing a new poker program in collaboration with FSN focused on building awareness and driving traffic to the company's online subscription website, ClubWPT.com.
 
WPT recently announced the termination of the WPT-branded online gaming website that will be completed in November. The cost implications of this early termination of its software agreement with Cryptologic are still to be revealed. Ironically, online gaming revenues rose modestly in the third quarter of 2008 compared to the third quarter of 2007, but this revenue source will be discontinued in the fourth quarter of 2008 due to the recently announced shut down of the website.
 
Domestic television license revenues were $0.9 million in the third quarter of 2008, compared to $1.4 million in the third quarter of 2007, which is due to lower per episode license fees under the Game Show Network agreement in effect during the 2008 period, as compared to the Travel Channel agreement which was in effect during the 2007 period.
 
International television licensing revenues decreased to $0.3 million in the third quarter of 2008 compared to $0.5 million in the third quarter of 2007, with the decrease due to lower fees associated with international distribution agreements.
 
Product licensing revenues decreased to $0.7 million in the third quarter of 2008, compared to $0.8 million in the third quarter of 2007. The decrease was primarily due to lower revenues from one customer in the current quarter as compared to the 2007 period.
 
Event hosting and sponsorship revenues in the third quarter of 2008 decreased to $0.7 million from $1.6 million in the third quarter of 2007, primarily due to no sponsorship revenues from one sponsor in the third quarter of 2008 and lower international sponsorship revenues in the 2008 period.
 
Other revenues in the third quarter of 2008 were higher than the third quarter of 2007 due to the addition of revenues from the subscription-based website ClubWPT.com in the 2008 period. In October 2008, FSN began airing, "ClubWPT", a new poker program focused on building awareness and driving traffic to ClubWPT.com.
 
Selling, general and administrative expenses decreased to $4.5 million in the third quarter of 2008, compared to $5.7 million in the third quarter of 2007. Lower personnel-related costs in the current quarter were partially offset by a lease abandonment provision and costs to exit the WPT-branded online gaming website.
 
The Company performed an impairment analysis of its investment in Cecure Gaming in the third quarter of 2008 due to difficulties Cecure Gaming is having in obtaining capital to finance business development over the next several years. Third quarter of 2008 operating results included a $1.9 million impairment charge related to this investment.
 
The good news is that as at September 28, 2008, WPT had no debt, and total cash, cash equivalents and investments in marketable securities of $20.4 million, which included $10.2 million of auction rate securities ("ARS") backed by student loans, the majority of which are guaranteed under the Federal Family Education Loan Program.
 
However, as a result of the liquidity issues experienced in the global credit and capital markets, the auctions for all of the Company's ARS began failing in February 2008. The ARS continue to pay interest in accordance with the terms of the underlying security; however, liquidity will be limited until there is a successful auction or until such time as other markets for these ARS investments develop.
 
Based on September account statements received from the firms managing the ARS portfolio, the Company concluded that the value of its ARS has temporarily declined by $1.2 million as of September 28, 2008, a result of the current lack of liquidity. The $1.2 million unrealised loss is included in accumulated other comprehensive loss in stockholders' equity as of September 28, 2008.
 
WPT does not believe that the lack of liquidity relating to ARS will have an impact on its ability to fund its operations during the next twelve months.
 
Lipscomb says that the company continues to pursue three major businesses:
 
* Its emerging sponsor model of distributing the World Poker Tour television series,
 
* The ClubWPT.com online subscription business and
 
* WPT China.
 
"On the other hand, we are ending our online gaming business in November after disappointing returns. Of particular interest is our new collaboration with the Fox Sports Network to broadcast 13 one hour episodes of a new television series called `ClubWPT.com'. The only way that players can get onto the ClubWPT television show is to win a seat on our subscription-based website ClubWPT.com. FSN is promoting ClubWPT.com through in-show sponsorship, in-show billboards, audio mentions, commercial inventory and website presence on the home page of FoxSports.com. Fox has also agreed to air 26 all-new one hour episodes of Season Seven of the World Poker Tour television series across the U.S. as a part of FSN's Sunday sports block in December."
 
Interestingly, it does not appear that WPT has entirely written off the possibilities of online gambling. Under its Fourth Quarter Outlook the company lists: "To launch the WPT China integrated online and mobile poker game in November and begin to recognize revenue from China-related activities" and "Increased costs associated with building and launching the WPT China integrated online and mobile poker game platform." 
 
It also describes the likely costs of exiting its Internet gambling agreement with Cryptologic as "minor", perhaps indicating that a quid pro quo involving the Asian prospects may have been reached.



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