News Column

SeaWorld Files to Sell Stock in IPO

Dec. 27, 2012

Jason Garcia, Orlando Sentinel

SeaWorld is going public.

Orlando-based SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment filed plans Thursday to sell up to $100 million worth of public shares.

The company would operate under a new name, SeaWorld Entertainment Inc., and trade under the symbol "SEAS."

Private-equity giant Blackstone Group, which bought SeaWorld in late 2009 for approximately $2.5 billion, would retain a controlling stake in SeaWorld.

The IPO comes as SeaWorld's finances continue to rebound from the global recession. Operating profit ballooned 34 percent to $229 million through the first nine months of this year, according to a regulatory filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Total revenue was up 7.6 percent to nearly $1.2 billion during the same period.

The company's 11 U.S. parks drew 19.9 million people through Sept. 30, up 4.3 percent. SeaWorld said its parks have drawn more than 24 million visitors over the last full year period.

The company says the gains have been driven in large part by its three SeaWorld marine parks in Orlando, San Diego and San Antonio and Busch Gardens Williamsburg in Virginia.

A company spokesman declined to comment.

A portion of the proceeds from the initial public offering would be used to make a one-time payment to Blackstone, which put down $975 million in cash when it bought SeaWorld from Anheuser-Busch InBev and financed the remainder with debt. The firm also took dividend payments totaling $610 million out of SeaWorld in 2010 and 2011, meaning it has already earned back more than two-thirds of its initial investment.

Source: (c)2012 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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