Cinedigm has published its Q4 and year-end financial figures for fiscal 2009, which make for interesting reading, given that the company is the only* publicly listed third-party digital cinema operator. The good news is that the company is treading water, not drowning. The bad news is that it does so in a sea of red ink. Let’s take a closer look at the number and highlight some of the key statements in the company’s press release.
You know that the company has little to write home about when it starts off its list of achievements with the re-branding of the company from AccessIT to Cinedigm, instead of talknig about the number of screens converted, as CEO Bud Mayo does:
“The past year has been tremendously exciting for Cinedigm. Not only did we rebrand the company, but we also brought ground-breaking events to consumers and fans of college football and the NBA in the fourth quarter.”
He then goes on to acknowledge that it is a cold financial wind blowing out there, but trusts the resilience of the exhibition industry and 3D to carry the business through. So how bad are the economic conditions and what has the impact been for the company’s bottom line? First of all, let’s do way with Cinedigm’s EBITDA and the likes. Any CFO with half a brain these days will tell you, revenue is vanity, profit is sanity and cash is king, so the fact that Cinedigm’s revenue is up three per cent is of little consequence in the larger scheme of things.
Encouragingly operating losses decreased from $5.9m to $4.9m for FY09 compared to FY08, according to Cinedigm, due to “increased revenues and reduced direct operating expenses and SG&A, offset by an impairment charge and increased depreciation.” Similarly losses decreased for Q4 from $2.4m to $2.0m. But look more closely at the P&L figures lower down, particularly for the last three months. you will see that net loss was improved by $1,889,000. However, this is more than explained by the difference in interest payments of $2,378,000, which is half a million more than the difference in profit and loss for the the last three month. So the depressed interest rates is what is helping Cinedigm, rather than any management miracles.
There are also some worrying admissions that point to financial challenges in the months ahead:
Fiscal 2009 fourth quarter revenue decreased by 18%, to $17.9 million from $21.9 million in the comparable year-ago period primarily due to a contracted 16% step-down in VPF rates and seasonally fewer titles and prints in the quarter. This contracted step-down in VPF rates charged to the major studios will stabilize with just one more contracted reduction of 7% in the third quarter of fiscal 2012.
So the good news is that there will only be one more cut in the VPF rate, the bad news is that there should be any cut in the VPF rate in the first place. Remember that AccessIT (as it was then still called) got the best VPF rates that any company will ever get from the Hollywood studios in Phase 1 of its deployment – which mainly helped kit out troubled exhibitor Carmike – with VPFs currently being much lower.
It is well known that there are penalty clauses in VPF payments for entities that don’t meet their target number of screens (hello, Arts Alliance and XDC!), but that there should be automatic VPF fee cuts for entitites that came very close to meeting their full target, s AccessIT did in Phase 1, is troubling. And where does Cinedigm stand with regards to deployment for Phase 2? Mayo again:
“We are optimistic about our intensifying efforts to secure financing for Phase 2 installations through third party lenders as well as our exhibitor and vendor partners which will generate ongoing fees and other key revenue streams for Cinedigm. To date we have installed 139 Phase 2 screens and approximately 3,900 screens in total.”
139 screens is a drop in the ocean, or just over one per cent, of the planned 10,000 screens for Phase 2. Don’t expect Cinedigm to be collecting much in the way of the anyways reduced VPF for these screens. Cinedigm aknowledges as much when it goes on to state that “All comments regarding fiscal year 2010 do not assume a large Phase 2 deployment or a large rollout by other entities, including DCIP, although the Company expects both to occur.” Though to be brutally honest, the likelihood of the latter is greater than the former.
Instead Cinedigm is pinning its hopes to a growth in DMS (digital media services) division revenue, cushioned by steady income (minus another VPF rate cut) from Phase 1. The strategy is thus to keep treading water, hope for the financial climate to improve. At leasthe amended credit facility with GM should ensure that no sharks will be circling just yet.
The situation is unlikely to be much better for the likes of AAM and XDC, though because they are not publicly listed companies, there is no way of knowing whether they are swimming, sinking or treading water nearby, waiting for rescue in the form of radically improved financial climate and/or a buy-out.
*(Companies like Dolby and Kodak are also engaged in third party deployment, but it is not their primary business, unlike Cinedigm, which we group with Arts Alliance Media and XDC)
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