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Financially healthy Intrawest will be good for Whistler: Brownlie

A much-improved year end for Whistler-Blackcomb’s parent company Intrawest will benefit all of Whistler in the years to come, according to the chief operating officer for Whistler-Blackcomb and Panorama.


"I believe we can get back on a growth curve," Dave Brownlie said Tuesday after Intrawest released its fiscal year end results.

"To put it in perspective, Whistler has had a real challenging year as a resort. Intrawest’s success is a good thing. We can leverage off that in the future."

Intrawest announced strong fourth quarter results and an improved year-end Tuesday, which immediately boosted the company’s stock price. The company significantly increased cash flow from real estate development and management services and reduced its debt by $285 million (all figures in US dollars) this year.

Intrawest has gone through a period of restructuring over the last three years as the company sought to improve its financial picture. Real estate partnerships in the United States and Canada were set up under the Leisura division. A new Travel and Leisure division was announced last spring, which includes partnerships with other operators in the tourism industry.

The sale of several real estate projects to the Leisura partnerships was part of the reason cash flow from continuing operating activities improved by nearly $444 million over last year, from negative cash flow of $21 million last year to $422.9 million in fiscal 2004.

Intrawest chairman, president and chief executive officer Joe Houssian said in a release 2004 was "a most satisfying year indeed."

"We are now reaping the rewards of our business strategy and the groundwork of the past three years. Looking ahead, the recent creation of our Leisure and Travel Group, including the alignment of all our non-real estate businesses, will further strengthen our resort operations activities and drive growth."

Brownlie, who is also executive vice president of the Leisure and Travel Group, said Intrawest’s business model is proving successful and that is good news for Whistler.

"The geographic diversification (of Intrawest’s resorts), the real estate has paid off," said Brownlie.

"It’s good news for Whistler-Blackcomb to be part of a strong organization."

Brownlie predicted a return to better times for Whistler.

"I believe the last two years have been a blip, we’re going to turn it around and build to the Olympics," he said.

"We have capacity in the resort and we can get more people here."

For fiscal 2004 ended June 30, Intrawest’s profit rose to $60 million, from $34.2 million last year.

Revenue from management services increased from $88.2 million in 2003 to $124.4 million due to increased lodging-management fees, fees charged to Leisura and higher sales fees from third-party developers to Playground, Intawest’s real estate sales and marketing division.

Real estate revenue increased from $512.7 million in 2004 to $878.2 million, including $171.5 million of revenue on the sale of 14 projects to Leisura.

However, the resort operations division of Intrawest didn’t fare as well. Revenue from resort operations was up, from $499.9 million in 2003 to $541.3 million this year, but earnings before interest, income taxes, non-controlling interest, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) was down from $112.4 million last year to $105.1 million in 2004. The company cited reduced skier visits for the decline and noted the ski season in the East started late and was affected by a very cold January, while "exceptionally warm weather in Colorado in March" hurt skier visits at Intrawest’s Colorado ski areas, Copper Mountain and Winter Park.