Investors who bought stocks during the 2020 Covid-19 market crash have generally enjoyed big gains over the past two years. But there’s no question that some big-name stocks have fared better than others since the bottom of the pandemic.
Penn’s Bumpy Ride: One company that has performed best over the past two years is a casino and online gambling operator PENN Entertainment Inc PENN.
The casino industry was one of the hardest hit industries during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Fortunately for Penn investors, the company made a timely investment in Barstool Sports in January 2020. The Barstool deal gave Penn 36% ownership stake in Barstool for $163 million, and Penn plans to exercise its option to acquire the remainder of Barstool in 2023.
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When casinos were closed during the pandemic, Penn took aggressive steps to stave off financial hardship. In April 2020, Penn sold its Tropicana Las Vegas casino real estate to Gaming and Leisure Properties Inc GLPI for $337.5 million in rental credits.
Penn also launched a mobile sports betting app Barstool Sportsbook in September 2020 in Pennsylvania, with the influential founder of Barstool Dave Portnoy leading online marketing efforts. The Barstool Sportsbook app has since expanded to New Jersey, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Colorado, Virginia, Tennessee, Arizona, Iowa, West Virginia, Louisiana and Kansas.
At the start of 2020, Penn stock was trading for just $25.97. By early March, the stock had reached $29.70 as news of the spread of the coronavirus in China sparked fears of a pandemic in the US.
As the market crashed during the COVID-19 outbreak in the US, Penn shares fell to $3.75 on March 18, 2020, during the height of fears about the pandemic.
When the market rebounded in late March 2020, Penn also began to recover. In fact, the stock returned to pre-pandemic highs above $30 by June.
Penn reached $50 in August and $80 in December as the Barstool Sportsbook app continued to expand and casinos reopened across the country.
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Penn in 2022, beyond: Penn stock hit a post-pandemic peak of $142 in March 2021 before spending the next year and a half in a steady decline. MGM Resorts MGM, Draftkings Inc DKNG and Flutter Entmt ADR PDYPY subsidiary FanDuel took early market share leadership in the US iGaming market.
In July 2021, Penn took another gamble by acquiring Score Media and Gaming Inc. for $2 billion, but the deal didn’t stop the bleeding in Penn stock.
To make matters worse, the controversial Portnoy was accused of a sexual misconduct by Business Insider in November 2021, the same day Penn reported a big third-quarter profit loss. In response, Portnoy provided evidence suggesting that Business Insider’s allegations against him were false. Unfortunately, Penn stock continued to fall to $25.49 in September 2022 before rebounding to $35.41 today.
Still, investors who bought Penn the day it hit its 2020 pandemic bottom and held on generated huge returns on their investments. In fact, $1,000 in Penn stock purchased on March 18, 2020 would be worth about $7,993 today.
Looking ahead, analysts expect Penn’s stock to continue to rise over the next 12 months. The average target price among the 18 analysts covering the stock is $45.50, suggesting a 28.7% upside from current levels.
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