SeaWorld could make a splash with public offering of stock

The New York TimesDecember 27, 2012 

Seaworld Entertainment-IPO

FILE - In this Monday, March 7, 2011, file photo, park guests watch as a killer whale flips out of the water at SeaWorld Orlando's Shamu Stadium in Orlando, Fla. SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. on Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012, filed for an initial public offering of stockthat could raise $100 million.(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)

PHELAN M. EBENHACK — 2011 AP file photo

SeaWorld Entertainment, the Blackstone Group-controlled theme park operator famous for its killer whales, filed for an initial public offering Thursday.

Under the terms of the listing, Blackstone, which bought the theme park group from Anheuser-Busch InBev in 2009 for around $2.7 billion, will keep a majority of the voting rights in SeaWorld. The company did not provide a specific timeline for the IPO.

In the filing, SeaWorld said the offering would raise as much as $100 million, but that was a figure used to calculate the registration fee and could change. Reuters reported this month that the offering could raise as much as $600 million, citing unnamed sources.

SeaWorld is one of the largest entertainment park operators in the United States after the Walt Disney Co. It operates 11 U.S. theme parks, including the Busch Gardens parks in Williamsburg, Va., and Tampa, Fla., and Sesame Place in Langhorne, Pa., as well as SeaWorld parks in Orlando, Fla., San Diego and San Antonio. The company says it has “the largest group of killer whales in human care,” with 28.

The parks attracted 24 million visitors during the 12 months through Sept. 30, according to the filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company generated $1.2 billion in revenue during the first nine months of 2012, according to the filing.

SeaWorld said the money raised through the offering would be used to repay debt, make a one-time payment to a Blackstone affiliate, and for other business activities.

Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Barclays and Wells Fargo are leading the underwriting of the SeaWorld offering.

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