Liberty Media reveals Braves’ first-quarter financial results

Combined ShapeCaption
Braves' CEO talks activities to do at SunTrust Park

The Braves posted a decline in first-quarter revenue this year, due to opening the season on the road, according to financial results released Thursday by team owner Liberty Media.

The Braves had revenue of $22 million in the January-through-March quarter, compared to $28 million in the same period last year.

The difference: The Braves had no regular-season home games in March this year, compared to three in March 2018.

Of the $22 million in revenue, Liberty Media said $14 million came from baseball sources and $8 million from The Battery Atlanta, the mixed-use development adjacent to SunTrust Park. Revenue from The Battery was unchanged from the first quarter of 2018, while baseball revenue was down by $6 million.

On a conference call with investment analysts Thursday, Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei said the Braves benefited financially in full-year 2018 from such factors as a favorable home schedule, a team that was in contention throughout the regular season, a playoff berth and non-game special events. How some of those factors develop this season remains to be seen.

“While year-to-date attendance looks pretty good … many of these drivers that I just mentioned will continue to play out, and the lack of them may impact results,” Maffei said.

In the big picture, first-quarter financial results generally aren’t significant for MLB teams because the vast majority of revenue and profit is generated in the second and third quarters each year. Teams typically show large operating losses in the first quarter, as was the case for the Braves again this year.

The Braves had an operating loss before depreciation and amortization of $31 million in the January-March quarter and an operating loss after depreciation of $47 million, Liberty Media said. In the same period last year, those losses were $33 million and $49 million, respectively.

Liberty also disclosed Thursday that the Braves slightly reduced their debt to $480 million as of March 31, down from $494 million as of Dec. 31. The debt stems largely from the construction of SunTrust Park and The Battery.

More construction spending is ahead for the Braves. Liberty said the second phase of The Battery, now under construction, is expected to cost approximately $200 million, “which the Braves and affiliated entities expect to fund through a mix of approximately $55 million in equity and approximately $145 million in net debt.”

The Braves had $163 million in cash and liquid investments as of March 31, Liberty said.

The Braves are one of the few pro sports franchises with publicly traded stock — a tracking stock Liberty Media issued in 2016 to allow investors to buy and sell shares in the team separate from the rest of the company. That requires the quarterly disclosure of financial information that other teams tend to keep secret.

For all of 2018, the Braves posted revenue of $442 million and operating profit before depreciation and amortization of $94 million, Liberty disclosed on Feb. 28.