SeaWorld Jumps After Raising $702 Million in Public Offering

SeaWorld Entertainment Inc., the theme-park operator controlled by Blackstone Group LP, jumped in New York after raising $702 million in an initial public offering that priced the stock at the top of the proposed range.

The stock climbed 24 percent to $33.52 at the close in New York. SeaWorld sold 26 million shares, which represent 28 percent of the outstanding stock, at $27 each. The company had earlier offered them for $24 to $27 apiece.

Blackstone chose an IPO for SeaWorld, snubbing takeover bids from Apollo Global Management LLC and Onex Corp., because the firm expects the offering to yield better returns over time than a sale, a person familiar with the matter said earlier this year. At the offering price, Orlando, Florida-based SeaWorld’s market value is about $2.5 billion.

“We have a terrific brand, we have great parks, 11 parks spread across the country,” SeaWorld Chief Executive Officer Jim Atchison said today on Bloomberg TV. “We’re doing brand extensions for television and consumer products licensing. We have a lot of ways to win, so it’s a great story.”

SeaWorld, famed for its killer whales named Shamu, had about $191.7 million in capital expenditures in the 12 months through December and free cash flow of $111.8 million, according to regulatory filings and data compiled by Bloomberg. The company operates 11 theme parks, including two under the Busch Gardens brand.

Animal Safety

Much of SeaWorld’s capital spending went toward future attractions and animal-safety measures, filings show. The company described those costs as “elevated” for 2011 and 2012, and plans to reduce its level of expenditures to an average of about 10 percent of total revenue starting in 2014, excluding safety and infrastructure investments.

“One of the things I really credit Blackstone with is investing in the business over time,” Atchison said. “We had a number of things that we had to kind of catch up on. We were behind on some product development from our exit out of the Anheuser-Busch.”

Blackstone took control of SeaWorld in 2009 after agreeing to buy Anheuser-Busch InBev NV’s amusement-park business, in a transaction then valued at as much as $2.7 billion. Blackstone, which had owned all of SeaWorld’s equity, was set to hold about 68 percent following the sale.

The IPO price values Blackstone’s stake, along with the cash received from the IPO, at about $2.2 billion, more than twice the firm’s $1 billion equity investment in the 2009 leveraged buyout, according to data compiled by Bloomberg and a person with knowledge of the original transaction. Including dividends of more than $600 million that SeaWorld had already paid Blackstone over the past two years, it’s almost three times Blackstone’s initial investment.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. led the sale. SeaWorld is listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol SEAS.