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The Associated Press November 3, 2011, 3:24PM ET

Cedar Fair's 3Q profit rises with park attendance

Cedar Fair Entertainment Co. said Thursday that its third-quarter net income nearly doubled from a year ago, helped by more visitors coming through park gates and spending more. The amusement park operator lifted its outlook for the year, and shares climbed.

The Sandusky, Ohio, company, whose parks include Kings Dominion in Virginia and Cedar Point in Ohio, said that net income rose to $152.7 million, or $2.74 per share, from $75.7 million, or $1.36 per share, in the period covering roughly July through September.

Revenue climbed 5 percent to $572.3 million, beating the $557.8 million predicted by analysts polled by FactSet. Net income was also helped because the company set aside less money for taxes: About $38 million compared to $88 million a year ago.

Cedar Fair said it now expects revenue of between $1.02 billion and $1.03 billion for the year, up from a previous forecast of between $975 million and $1 billion. Analysts expected revenue of $997.7 million. It also raised its predictions for a profit measure that strips out interest, taxes and other items.

The company said it would pay a 70-cent dividend to shareholders for the quarter, part of its plan to pay a $1 dividend for 2011. Earlier this year, Cedar Fair paid investors separate dividends of 8 cents, 10 cents and 12 cents. The company said it expected to reinstate a regular quarterly dividend next year.

Park attendance increased by 276,000 visits, or 2 percent in the third quarter. Visitors spent an average of $40.84 on each visit, an increase of 3 percent. The company is investing in new rides, restaurants and other attractions to keep visitors coming, though CEO Dick Kinzel did caution of the "still challenging consumer marketplace."

Expenses increased about 6 percent, the company said, partly because of expenses related to lawsuits filed by a private-equity investment firm that has called for higher payouts for shareholders, among other changes.

Cedar Fair operates 11 amusement parks, six outdoor water parks, one indoor water park and five hotels. It owns Cedar Point, Kings Island and Knott's Berry Farm. It is selling California's Great America, which it bought in 2006, for $70 million to pay down debt.

Shares rose $1.31, or 6.7 percent, to $20.99 in late afternoon trading.

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