It was hard to miss the relief in the voice of Gaylord Entertainment Chairman and CEO Colin Reed on his company's conference call was analysts this morning. Discussing Gaylord's fourth-quarter results and outlook, Reed and his audience spent a good bit of time talking about the company's expansion plans, which were put on hold last summer during the reconstruction of the Opryland Resort & Convention Center.
Reiterating a theme he discussed last fall, Reed said the interest level in Gaylord from various communities — presumably in the West, where Gaylord does not yet have a site — continues to grow and the potential incentives to the company are still "attractive." Reed said his team is still looking at "one or two assets we'd like to add to our portfolio" and that he's traveling this week to meet with representatives of some of those. But, he added, there are many operators and investment groups in the market for deals these days and that Gaylord won't get into a bidding war for properties.
On that note, don't be surprised if Gaylord ends up making some sale-leaseback deals to help finance its expansion. Responding to an analyst's question about going "asset-light," Reed said he's watching the market and is "receptive to joint-venturing deals" that would let Gaylord run its sales and event management business after monetizing its real estate.
Among the other topics discussed on Gaylord's call this morning:
• Gaylord's board has approved a $12 million plan to raise the levee around the Opryland to a 500-year flood level. Reed had talked about his team's plans for the project in November, when cost estimates had topped out at $10 million. Today, Reed said the construction will let Gaylord raise its insurance coverage limit and cut its premiums at the same time.
• The Opryland sales team positively motored through December, booking almost 165,000 advance group room nights for the property – enough to fill the entire hotel almost 60 times over. That helped Gaylord as a whole end 2010 with more than 1.3 million future room bookings. "We took a bad situation and turned into an opportunity," Reed said of last May's flooding.
At about 2:15 p.m., shares of Gaylord (Ticker: GET) were up about 1 percent, having climbed out of the 2 percent hole they were in early in the day. They're up about 8 percent in the past three months.