Station Casinos ( STN) topped rising Wall Street estimates and raised guidance in announcing first-quarter earnings that were more than double year-ago levels, excluding all charges.

Station Tuesday announced a first-quarter net loss of $29.8 million, or 48 cents a share, which includes a $93.3 million charge related to the early retirement of debt. Throughout the quarter, Station has taken advantage of the low interest rate environment to reduce its borrowing costs and pay down debt.

Without this and other charges, which is how Wall Street views the company, Station earned $33.5 million, or 51 cents a share, which is more than the 46 cents a share expected by analysts and more than double the 23 cents a share it had a year ago.

Revenue came in at $239 million, up 20% over last year, with earnings before interest taxation, depreciation and amortization coming in at $94.1 million, up 42% over last year.

Las Vegas results helped drive the revenue and earnings growth. The company said that same-store revenue increased 11% from the year-ago quarter, while EBITDA increased 17%. The company saw profit margins on its properties, most of which target local gamblers, increase to 37.9% from 35.8% a year ago.

"A combination of a strong local economy, our Jumbo suite of products and continued population growth helped drive revenue and contributed to margin expansion for the quarter," said Glenn Christenson, CFO, in a statement.

Going forward, the company said that Las Vegas revenue would grow between 6% and 8% for the full year, with second quarter EBITDA ranging between $86 million and $90 million, or 45 cents to 49 cents a share. For the full year, the company said EBITDA would range between $350 million and $365 million, or $1.81 to $1.96 a share.

Both are at the high end of analyst expectations, which call for the company to earn 45 cents in the second quarter and $1.80 in fiscal 2004.

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