Caesars: When a Big Gamble May Also Be a Great Investment

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Some people compare the stock market to gambling and casinos. This is certainly debatable, considering that millions of Americans have saved and saved and seen their assets grow in the stock market versus gambling at the casino. But what about when it comes to investing in a casino stock? That’s a fair question for the case of Caesars Entertainment Corp. (NASDAQ: CZR).

Monday’s top analyst upgrades, downgrades, and initiations included Caesars, as Credit Suisse initiated coverage at Outperform. The firm also assigned a $13 price target based on its own sum-of-the-parts analysis. If the firm is correct, that represents roughly 30% in implied upside to the target.

Cameron McKnight, the Credit Suisse analyst behind the call, also named Caesars the top pick in gaming. The firm’s view is that Caesars re-emerged from bankruptcy as one of the largest U.S. gaming operators. It has eight properties around the Las Vegas Strip and 22 more regional properties. The report also called Caesars a pioneer of loyalty marketing and said that its Total Rewards program is a significant advantage.

Additional positives after considering a favorable long-term outlook for the Las Vegas Strip were listed as diversified revenue drivers, market share growth and a healthy corporate and meeting business. McKnight’s strong views further said:

Bulls point to upside from reinvestment following bankruptcy. Caesars is taking market share, with a mix of near- and medium-term projects. Caesars is reducing costs across the business, it is cash generative and should continue to deleverage. Valuation is very attractive relative to close peer MGM. Bears point to risks from supply growth and irrational competition, especially in a recession. Bears note Caesars’ already leading margins, and some note that Caesars is locked into expensive leases and sale-leasebacks.

Credit Suisse also is calling for 7.5% in annual EBITDA growth each year from 2017 through 2020 and a slight margin improvement from continued efficiency initiatives.

The 30% in implied upside to the $13 price target is already far higher than a traditional 8% to 10% upside call in most Dow Jones industrials or S&P 500 types of stocks at this time in the bull market. The firm’s $13 target was also shy of the $13.75 consensus analyst target price from Thomson Reuters.

One thing that Credit Suisse does differently from many other brokerage firms is offering a Blue Sky and Grey Sky scenario. Put simply, even more up or what happens if things don’t go its way. The firm’s Blue Sky scenario is $17 and its Gray Sky scenario is $9. In gambling terms, that’s $1.00 of risk for $3 of upside, and maybe as much as $7 upside if things go even better.

Obviously, investors have to consider a lot in investment banking and analyst research reports. Sometimes analysts are wrong, or sometimes their knowledge about a scenario is already more reflected in a share price than they might think.

Caesars shares were trading up almost 2% at $10.03 late on Tuesday, and they have a 52-week range of $8.55 to $14.50.