The news from World Poker Tour Enterprises was not good this week as the troubled company released its Q4 and 2008 finals. The announcement followed the more positive news that WPT and Fox Sports had extended their broadcast agreement but that did little to sweeten a bitter results pill.
Losses continued to mount in the fourth quarter, leading to a net loss of $3.3 million over the quarter and $12.5 million for the full year. When compared to the corresponding periods for 2007 (Q4 2007: a $1.8 million loss and FY 2007: a loss of $7.4 million) this represents a serious decline in WPT fortunes that will do little inspire confidence among investors.
Revenues for FY 2008 fell to $15.5 million (FY 2007: $21.7 million) with four fewer WPT episodes aired during 2008 and the “per episode license fee” declining by $177 000 for 17 instalments.
The company also reported a $1.9 million non-cash charge into mobile gambling developer Cecure Gaming “…due to difficulties Cecure Gaming is having in obtaining capital to finance their business development.”
Fourth quarter revenues were posted as $2.6 million, down from $5.1 million during the same period in 2007. WPTE officials attributed the dramatic downswing to television episode release dates. Season VI aired its inaugural four episodes during the fourth quarter of 2007, while the first episodes of Season VII did not hit the market until January of 2009. Consequently, a programming gap occurred during the latter part of 2008, leading to lower revenues.
Cost cutting measures that included letting staff go and closing the WPT branded online poker website were overshadowed by almost a million dollars spent in producing 10 ClubWPT poker subscription television shows. However, in answering questions during a conference call, WPTE acknowledged that the subscription-based gaming site failed to reach the 16 000 – 20 000 subscribers it had targeted for year's end, delivering only 12 000 subscribers, with approximately 3 000 of those still in trial memberships.
On the positive side, the company notes that in the fourth quarter it signed up Full Tilt Poker.net as a domestic sponsor for Season VII of the WPT television series. The company also successfully produced the second season of the WPT China National Traktor Poker Tour.
WPTE may be experiencing a tougher time than it anticipated on its business plans for China, too, revealing that it has been looking for a strategic partner in the venture, and commenting: "The cash needs to support the growth in this business are greater than the Company is willing to expend. The level of 2009 business activity by the WPT China business is dependent on the outcome of that search."
Addressing the rather dismal picture presented by the results, WPTE founder and president Steve Lipscomb commented: "I want to emphasize that we have taken significant steps to right-size our Company and turn the business around. This is never easy to adapt when your primary eight-figure source of revenue disappears because of market pressures that are entirely outside of your control, and while our metamorphosis is by no means complete, we believe that we are taking the necessary steps to reposition WPTE for long-term profitable growth. The actions we have already taken make us more agile and capable of adapting to an ever changing market, one that we have played a significant role in creating."
In mandatory SEC disclosures last week WPTE directors reported on agreements within the company that indicate that selling it has been considered. The report revealed enhanced provisions for CEO and President Steve Lipscomb in the event the company is sold in 2009, under which Lipscomb would receive 5 percent of the gross proceeds of the sale of the company, less the fair market value of its assets. Lipscomb has also been granted a six-month severance package if his employment is terminated, and the company has arranged for an exchange of 600 000 of Lipscomb's currently valueless stock options for 500 000 options set at current market prices (currently below 40 cents a share).