( HET) continued its winning streak, reporting strong first-quarter profit growth on booming business at casinos in Las Vegas and the central U.S.
Harrah's, which is in the process of acquiring former rival
, reported net income of $103.8 million, or 90 cents a share, up 27.1% from $81.7 million, or 73 cents a share a year before.
Harrah's said adjusted EPS, which is what Wall Street uses to gauge the company, was 97 cents a share, up 27.6% from 76 cents a year earlier. The number was in line with the 95-cent to 99-cent range the company preannounced two weeks ago. Before the preannouncement, the average analyst forecast was for 83 cents, according to Thomson First Call.
Revenue of $1.26 billion was up 24.2% from $1.01 billion a year earlier and was slightly higher than the $1.25 billion analyst consensus.
"Industry-leading capabilities, the accretive acquisition of Horseshoe Gaming and strong operating performances by many properties all contributed to a solid quarter," said Gary Loveman, Harrah's CEO. "Our strategy of building customer loyalty through sophisticated marketing and outstanding customer service continues to build momentum, producing our fifth consecutive quarter of record results. As we prepare for our historic merger with Caesars Entertainment, we believe the outlook for our company has never been stronger."
Results were driven by strength in southern Nevada, including Las Vegas. Revenue jumped 11.6% to $288.5 million, while operating income surged 22.8% to $80.3 million. That more than offset a 6.2% revenue decline in northern Nevada, where severe winter weather discouraged visitors in January.
Another key driver was Harrah's North Central and South Central regions, which include the three Horseshoe casinos the company acquired last July. Revenue for the North Central region increased 45.0% to $388.7 million, while operating income rose 77.1% to $74.9 million. Meanwhile, South Central region revenue jumped 52.5% to $275.8 million, and operating income grew 72.8% to $47.0 million.
Eastern region revenue was roughly flat on lower gaming volume as competitors spent aggressively on promotions and poor weather hurt business in Atlantic City.
As is its practice, Harrah's did not provide guidance. But in a conference call, executives said they were encouraged by the pace of Las Vegas bookings for the rest of the second quarter.