Posted on: January 22, 2021, 09:32h.
Last updated on: January 22, 2021, 10:06h.
Caesars Entertainment (NASDAQ:CZR) is higher by more than eight percent to start 2021 and 111 percent over the past six months. Citing an array of catalysts, one analyst says there’s more upside where that came from for the Harrah’s operator.
In a note to clients today, Stifel analyst Steven Wieczynski reiterates a “buy” rating on Caesars stock, while lifting his price target on the name to $105 from $95. The new forecast implies upside of more than 25 percent from current levels.
While COVID headwinds could pressure near-term estimates as travel/gathering restrictions remain in place (and could get worse), we believe CZR remains well positioned long-term as the world eventually recovers from this pandemic, given their compelling asset mix (Vegas/regionals/sports betting/iGaming),” said the analyst.
Earlier this month, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) extended for 30 days the policy that casinos, bars, and restaurants must cap capacity at 25 percent to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Experts question the effectiveness of that protocol and the limits on guests crimps Caesars, which runs 17 gaming venues in the Silver State.
Catalysts Can Outlast COVID-19
As the second-largest operator on the Las Vegas Strip, Caesars stock is long regarded as a play on vaccine distribution and an economic rebound in the largest domestic gaming hub. The pace of that recovery remains sluggish, but there’s more to the story than just Sin City assets.
“The William Hill deal closes late-1Q to early-2Q which should cause investors to start thinking more about the long-term possibilities behind CZR’s sports betting/iGaming platform,” said Wieczynski. “Once the deal closes, we would expect management to start laying out more details behind a possible sports betting/iGaming spinout, or what the earnings power of the 100% controlled entity could look like.”
The analyst says another potential spark for Caesars is the 55 and up age demographic. He notes that as more of them get vaccinated, pent-up demand will be unleashed as soon as this year. Add that into the sports betting thesis, and there’s room for more upside in the stock.
“We believe there are eight to 12 states that could go down the path of legalizing sports betting this year which should continue to support long-term total addressable market (TAM) estimates (no matter how crazy they are),” said Wieczynski.
Other Levers to Pull
The Stifel analyst points out that Caesars remains intent on divesting a Strip property, and that process could accelerate as coronavirus vaccines are distributed on a broader scale. Adding up the aforementioned points creates a potentially lucrative deleveraging missive, according to Wieczynski.
“Every catalyst we pointed out should help drive leverage lower. Any deleveraging event that CZR can participate in will only drive the equity value higher, given leverage is one of the biggest overhangs on this story,” he writes.
Firming up the balance sheet is vital, because Caesars carried $16.2 billion in liabilities as of the end of the third quarter. Much of that debt is junk-rated, meaning higher interest expense.
It could take some time, but trimming that burden is possible. Wieczynski says Caesars can top the $900 million in cost efficiencies promised through last year’s merger with Eldorado Resorts, and that the operator could generate as much as $8.75 a share in free cash flow by 2023.