CHESTER, W.Va. (AP) ¿ MTR Gaming Group Inc. shares tumbled Friday after the casino operator reported a narrower fourth-quarter loss but missed analysts' estimates. The stock lost 16 cents, or 13.5 percent, to $1.03 in afternoon trading. The stock has ranged from 77 cents to $7.70 over the past year. Late Thursday, MTR reported a quarterly loss of $4.5 million, or 17 cents per share, compared with a loss of $8.6 million, or 31 cents per share, in the same period a year earlier. Loss from continuing operations shrunk to $4.2 million, or 15 cents per share, from $7.7 million, or 28 cents per share. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters, whose estimates typically exclude one-time items, predicted a loss of 8 cents per share. Revenue rose 2 percent to $101.3 million from $98.9 million on increased gaming revenue and an uptick in food, beverage and lodging sales. Morgan Joseph's Justin Sebastiano downgraded MTR to "Hold" from "Buy." He said in a client note that the company's Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort in West Virginia is up against strong competition that will likely intensify later in the year as the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh opens in September, which will follow the opening of an expanded, permanent slot parlor at the Meadows Racetrack and Casino in the Pittsburgh market next month.
But Jefferies analyst Lawrence Klatzkin remained more upbeat, saying he expects MTR to gain in the near term from new management and cost control efforts, while the Mountaineer and Presque Isle Downs & Casino in Pennsylvania provide potential long-term benefits. Klatzkin lifted his share price target on MTR to $5 from $4.50. For the year, MTR said its loss widened to $17.7 million, or 65 cents per share, from $11.4 million, or 41 cents per share, in 2007. Loss from continuing operations grew to $15.3 million, or 56 cents per share, from $5.9 million, or 21 cents per share. Revenue improved to $470.9 million from $415.8 million.