SeaWorld Rises After Company Reaffirms Earnings Guidance

SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. rose the most since December after the theme-park operator reaffirmed its earnings guidance for the year amid signs attendance may be improving.

The Orlando, Florida-based company, which is battling criticism over its treatment of captive killer whales, reported profit of 22 cents a share, excluding items, in a statement Thursday. Analysts projected 39 cents on average. Park visitors declined 1.6 percent to 6.48 million in the quarter.

SeaWorld maintained its projection that earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization would be flat to up 3 percent for the year. That’s a sign attendance in July and August could be improving, according to Barton Crockett, an analyst with FBR & Co., who recommends buying the stock.

“The full-year outlook is ultimately more important than the quarterly performance,” Crockett wrote in a note Thursday.

SeaWorld rose 3.2 percent to $17.95 at 11:42 a.m. in New York after gaining as much as 6.4 percent to mark the best intraday advance since Dec. 19.

Company officials said a conference call that they had the confidence to maintain their guidance for the year after raising ticket prices and cutting costs. The company should benefit from a favorable second-half calendar, such as Halloween falling on a Saturday, they said.

Second-quarter revenue, down 3.4 percent to $391.6 million, also missed analysts’ estimates.

SeaWorld, which owns 11 parks in the U.S., has been under fire from animal rights activists for using orcas in shows. The group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said last month a SeaWorld employee posed as an activist under a fake name, gaining access to the group’s meetings and protests.

The company put the employee on paid leave and hired outside counsel to conduct an investigation.

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