SeaWorld Falls to Low as Cooperman’s Omega Sells Stake

SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. slumped to a new low after reporting earnings that missed analysts’ estimates and saying controversy over the treatment of captive whales hurt attendance at its theme parks.

The shares, which fell 33 percent yesterday, declined further today as a person familiar with Leon Cooperman’s Omega Advisors Inc. said the hedge-fund firm sold its $30.8 million stake in SeaWorld. The person asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public.

SeaWorld, which in April 2013 sold shares to the public at $27 apiece, fell 4.8 percent to $18 at the close of trading in New York, after slumping to an intraday low of $17.83. Omega, based in New York, bought 1.09 million shares of SeaWorld in the second quarter with a market value of $30.8 million as of June 30, according to a filing today with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

CNBC reported earlier that Omega sold its stake in SeaWorld.

SeaWorld yesterday acknowledged for the first time that pressure from animal-rights groups is reducing attendance, said Barton Crockett, an analyst at FBR & Co. who called second-quarter results “surprisingly weak.” Earnings of 43 cents a share trailed 58 cents, the average of estimates compiled by Bloomberg. SeaWorld said it expects revenue to decline as much 7 percent in 2014.

Critical Documentary

A critical documentary called “Blackfish,” which focused on the Orlando, Florida-based company’s treatment of its performing killer whales, was released six months after the SeaWorld IPO. Chief Executive Officer Jim Atchison, who initially denied the film was affecting theme-park attendance, yesterday said the company is increasing its efforts to blunt criticism from activists.

“We also continue to ramp up our communication initiatives through our truth campaign, and other national marketing efforts to build and protect our brands,” Atchison said on a conference call with investors and analysts.

Blackstone Group LP, the world’s largest private-equity firm, owns 22 percent of SeaWorld shares. The New York-based firm bought SeaWorld from Anheuser-Bush Cos. in 2009.

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