By Daniel Figur, Jeff McCoy, and Josh Hamilton

The recent Q4 December 2011 earnings release of movie theater operator and real estate developer, Reading International, Inc. (NASDAQ:RDI), illustrated the company’s continued operating growth vs. prior year. Despite non-recurring ‘below-the-operating-line’ items (e.g. interest rate hedges, insurance recoveries, deferred tax asset recognition, etc.) impacting Q4 and full year 2011 net results, Reading’s Revenues, Operating Income and Operating Margin all were up y/y.

Historical background on Reading, now a $246MM revenue, but only a $100MM market cap company, is available in this past Just One Stock interview and these other Seeking Alpha articles. Notwithstanding the company’s consistent delivery of operating performance, Reading lacks coverage by even a single sell-side industry analyst. This lack of secondary analysis contributes to the stock price of RDI trading at the biggest discount to book value/share of all three of the larger US publicly-traded theater exhibitors, Regal Entertainment Group (NYSE:RGC), Cinemark Holdings, Inc.(NYSE:CNK) and Carmike Cinemas, Inc. (NYSE:CKEC), despite Reading’s stronger growth, safer balance sheet, superior holdings of long-held real estate with sizable unrealized appreciation, all geographically diversified across several countries in different hemispheres.

This article attempts to overcome some of the analytical vacuum surrounding this still undercovered company and to illustrate that Reading remains a compelling risk/reward investment by providing:

  1. Discussion of Q4 and FYE December 2011’s financial performance, highlighting cinema outperformance over peers;
  2. Highlights of key disclosures in Reading’s 2011 10-K filing filed recently with the SEC; and
  3. Many links to Reading’s thorough disclosures, which offer investors substantial information about Reading’s business plan and its massive pool of valuable real estate assets;

2012 Box Office Has Started Strong With Great Prospects

According to Box Office Mojo, without Q1 even completed, 2012 box office grosses have already started off extraordinarily hot, up around 20% y/y, featuring Universal Picture’s Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ:CMCSA) “Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax” and Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.’s (NYSE:LGF) blockbuster, “The Hunger Games.” Reading Cinemas helped Australia become the biggest foreign market for The Hunger Games opening. The movie release schedule for the remainder of 2012 contains several well-known ‘franchise’ blockbusters and a greater number of 3D movies than 2011. In a new twist that should add to exhibitor’s profitability, several past blockbuster films are being re-released in 3D, during historically slow seasonal box office periods.

Q4 2011 Financial Results Illustrate Consistent Global Cinema Performance

Reading’s total quarterly revenues grew +6.1% from prior year. Revenues of Reading’s larger Cinema segment, which produces the bulk of the company’s cash flows, grew by 5.6% y/y, while its smaller Real Estate segment revenues grew by more than 10%. Cinema segment revenue growth was primarily the result of increases in US and Australian attendance, and modest Aussie currency improvement, offset by a drop in New Zealand attendance from Christchurch earthquake-damage theater closures. Real Estate segment revenue growth was the result of improved live theater rental income, Aussie currency improvement and a prior-year non-recurring negative accounting adjustment.

Despite Q4 2011 domestic industry-wide box office results turning down 4.8%, Reading’s Cinema Segment y/y revenue, both domestically and globally, continued to grow over the prior year. As illustrated in the table, below, this revenue growth exceeded all three of the larger US publicly-traded theater exhibitors, fellow international exhibitor, Cinemark Holdings, and US-only players, Regal Cinemas and Carmike Cinemas.

Reading International: Operating Growth Continues, 2012 Box Office Starting HotIn a tough box office environment where Domestic industry-wide box office results for 2011 dropped 3.7% vs. 2010, Reading also bettered competitors. As illustrated in the table, below, revenue growth at movie exhibitors with international operations such as Reading and Cinemark Holdings continued to exceed exhibitors who rely solely on the US domestic market like Regal Cinemas and Carmike Cinemas .

It is noteworthy that Reading New Zealand’s Q4 and 2011 y/y results were weakened by the closures of Reading’s Palms multiplex in Christchurch from 2/2011 to 11/2011 and then again in late December 2011 into early January 2012, due to the major February 2011 earthquake and a large December aftershock. Reading’s multiplex at The Palms has again recently reopened. During Q4, Reading received its first of several expected insurance payments for reconstruction costs and lost profits damages. However, while New Zealand cinema operational weakness was accounted for in the segment’s regular 2011 operating results, the insurance proceeds in Q4 was booked as ‘below-the-line’ Other Income.

Q4’s Operating Income (EBIT) jumped 130% from prior year to $2.1MM, despite a non-recurring impairment charge on Reading’s Taringa (Brisbane, Australia) parcel, whose sale was completed after quarter’s end. Adjusted Operating EBITDA (Operating Income + Dptn/Amort + impairment) of $6.7MM was 30% higher than prior year’s Operating EBITDA. Reading’s cash flow growth vs. prior year came from both its Cinema and Real estate segments as well as a reduction in General and Administrative expenses (mostly due to reduced litigation costs.) Cinema Segment margins jumped from prior year, benefiting from operating leverage on fuller theaters, higher ticket prices and increased cinema revenue mix from concessions, which carry much higher margin than admissions.

Q4’s Interest expense created the quarter’s loss and decline vs. prior year results. Negative interest rate swap mark-to-market and a modest interest rate margin increase from Reading’s new Australian credit line raised reported interest expense. Prior year’s interest expense was reduced by a substantial accrued interest expense forgiveness from adjustments to the purchase price of Reading’s 2008 Consolidated Cinemas acquisition.

Strong Balance Sheet Loaded With Hard Assets

Reading increased Book Value of $5.43/share is up 11.5% from prior year, with Australian and New Zealand 12/30/11 currency exchange rates up y/y only 1.3% and 1.5%, respectively. As explained in the Just One Stock interview, Reading’s book value greatly understates the current fair market value of Reading’s Australian, New Zealand, New York and Chicago real estate, much of which has appreciated in value over more than a decade of ownership, from population growth, up-zoning, and in some instances, development into rent-generating parcels.

The table, updated below for Q4 results, illustrates that Reading’s Net Debt to Total Assets % is amongst the industry’s most conservative, and much safer than Regal Cinemas’ and Carmike Cinemas’ high leverage ratios. In fact, Regal and Carmike, both, have negative book value from sizable past losses, restructurings and distributions in excess of income. However, what makes the table, below, so compelling is that Reading’s true asset and book value is likely even higher because of sizable unrealized appreciation on the Company’s real estate.

Other 10-K disclosures of note:

Reading finished the December quarter with substantial liquidity. At December 31, 2011, Reading had cash and marketable securities of $36.9MM plus a combined $25.2MM of un-drawn availability on its several lines of credit. Reading’s 12/31/11 debt, net of the above-mentioned cash is $172.7MM, lower than prior quarter and prior year as a result of continued strong cash flow generation.

At December 31, 2011, Reading

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