Posted on: September 14, 2020, 01:38h. 

Last updated on: September 14, 2020, 01:38h.

Count Goldman Sachs as the rare investment bank that’s not overly enthusiastic about Caesars Entertainment (NASDAQ:CZR).

Goldman Sachs Caesars
Goldman Sachs isn’t crazy about Caesars stock, but the bank acknowledges catalysts. (Image: NY Post)

Today, analyst Stephen Grambling initiated coverage of the newly formed casino Goliath with a “hold” rating and a $56 price target, implying modest upside from the close around $54.90. With Caesars stock having surged from around $30 in early August, it’s not surprising that one of the analyst’s primary concerns is valuation.

Valuation (is) largely reflective given higher financial risk,” said Grambling in a note to clients.

He notes the stock trades at 7.9x earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA). The higher financial risk of which the Goldman analyst speaks is the $14.7 billion in debt the Bally’s operator carries, as of June 30. That figure is a combination of what the old Eldorado Resorts brought to the table in acquiring Caesars and the $8.8 billion in liabilities the buyer assumed from the target. That’s a massive mountain of debt considering Caesars’ market capitalization of $8.16 billion as of the Sept. 14 market close.

Investors Focusing Elsewhere

Under normal circumstances for any stock in any sector, a rating from Goldman Sachs has the potential to move the shares, but today wasn’t a typical day for Caesars.

Grambling’s assessment on the stock is undoubtedly lukewarm and, on a standard day, probably would’ve sent the shares lower, but that wasn’t the case Monday. On volume that was well above the daily average, Caesars stock surged 9.52 percent to start the week after the company said it reached a deal with ESPN whereby links to the operator’s sportsbooks will be accessible through ESPN.com and the network’s mobile and fantasy sports apps.

Rival DraftKings (NASDAQ:DKNG) booked a similar pact with the worldwide leader in sports prompting research firm Jefferies to say the agreements are good news for both gaming companies.

For his part, Goldman’s Grambling was busy today. In addition to the new coverage on Caesars, he downgraded MGM Resorts International (NYSE:MGM) to “sell” from “hold” while reiterating a “buy” rating on Penn National Gaming (NASDAQ:PENN).

Not Too Gloomy

While a “neutral” grade on a stock may imply some level of mediocrity, Grambling isn’t entirely negative on Caesars.

He reminds investors the company overs plenty of catalysts over the next six to 12 months, including property reopenings, management focus on realizing at least $500 million in savings via the aforementioned takeover and cash-generating asset sales. Next up on the divestment front could be gaming properties in Indiana followed later by a Las Vegas Strip asset.

Grambling, as so many of his colleagues previously have, also highlighted the possibility of an announcement from Caesars management on the fate of the iGaming and sports betting business, which could come before the end of 2020 and would likely be a positive catalyst for the stock.

The bulk of the analysts covering Caesars stock have “buy” ratings, but a couple of others in addition to Grambling rate call it a “hold.” The Goldman analysts $56 price forecast isn’t far off the Wall Street consensus of $57.67.



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