SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. was upgraded Thursday to neutral from underperform at Credit Suisse, but that doesn’t mean the analysts have high hopes for the company.
The upgrade came as analyst Benjamin Chaiken didn’t think SeaWorld SEAS, +0.76% was “in a better position structurally,” just that Wall Street’s expectations and the stock’s valuation are now more reasonable than in May, when he turned bearish on the stock. He said the upgrade is also based on the belief that SeaWorld should, and will, lower its dividend and use the money to reinvest in the business, pinning its hopes on the addition of new roller coasters.
Shares of SeaWorld climbed 0.8%, but had been up as much as 3.1% earlier in the session. The shares have tumbled 28% in the past three months, compared with the S&P 500’s SPX, -0.08% gain of 5.9%.
In a letter to the California Coastal Commission earlier this week, SeaWorld San Diego has officially cancelled plans to move forward with the Blue World project, a $100 million dollar project that would greatly expand its killer whale habitat.
Last year, the project was approved by the Commission with the stipulation that the park end its breeding program, and condition that caused the park to sue the Commission, claiming that the condition lies outside of the power of the Commission.
With the withdrawal of the Blue World plans, the legal dispute is no longer required, as SeaWorld Parks announced last month that all of their parks would cease killer whale breeding. SeaWorld has said that the $100 million dedicated to Blue World will be focused on other attractions that will focus on conservation and will improve the public opinion of the company while attracting guests to return to SeaWorld Parks.
SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. (NYSE: SEAS), a leading theme park and entertainment company, today announced that the killer whales – or orcas – currently in the company’s care will be the last generation of orcas at SeaWorld. The company will end all orca breeding as of today.
SeaWorld also will introduce new, inspiring, natural orca encounters, rather than theatrical shows, as part of its ongoing commitment to education, marine science research, and rescue of marine animals. These programs will focus on orca enrichment, exercise, and overall health. This change will start in its San Diego park next year, followed by San Antonio and then Orlando in 2019.
SeaWorld also announced today a broad new partnership with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) to protect our oceans and the animals that call them home. The company is committing to educating its more than 20 million annual visitors on animal welfare and conservation issues through interpretative programs at the parks and expanded advocacy for wild whales, seals, and other marine creatures.
“SeaWorld has introduced more than 400 million guests to orcas, and we are proud of our part in contributing to the human understanding of these animals,” said Joel Manby, President and Chief Executive Officer of SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. “As society’s understanding of orcas continues to change, SeaWorld is changing with it. By making this the last generation of orcas in our care and reimagining how guests will encounter these beautiful animals, we are fulfilling our mission of providing visitors to our parks with experiences that matter.”
“SeaWorld’s commitment to end breeding of orcas is a long-held goal of many animal advocacy organizations, and we commend the company for making this game-changing commitment,” said Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of HSUS. “Today we turn a corner, working together to achieve solutions on a wide set of animal issues including sunsetting the use of orcas at existing facilities; maximizing SeaWorld’s focus on rescue, rehabilitation and advocacy for marine mammals in the wild; and sourcing food for animals and customers from humane and sustainable sources, including cage-free eggs and crate-free pork.”
“We are pleased to join with HSUS on the significant issues facing marine mammals and their ocean homes,” said Manby. “The work done by zoological facilities like SeaWorld is critical for the protection of animals in the wild, especially marine mammals. To that end, SeaWorld has committed $50 million over the next five years to be the world’s leading marine animal rescue organization, to advocate for an end to the commercial killing of whales and seals and an end to shark finning.”
The current population of orcas at SeaWorld – including one orca, Takara, that became pregnant last year – will live out their lives at the company’s park habitats, where they will continue to receive the highest-quality care based on the latest advances in marine veterinary medicine, science, and zoological best practices. Guests will be able to observe these orcas through the new educational encounters and in viewing areas within the existing habitats.
SeaWorld reaffirms its commitment not to collect marine mammals from the wild. It has not collected an orca from the wild in nearly 40 years, and the orcas at SeaWorld were either born there or have spent almost their entire lives in human care. These orcas could not survive in oceans that include environmental concerns such as pollution and other man-made threats.
Opening summer 2016, Mako will be the tallest, fastest and longest coaster in Orlando.
Mako will be a hypercoaster, designed for speed and relentless "air time."
SeaWorld Orlando will now have a portfolio of 5 thrill rides: 3 distinctly different coasters, plus 2 family coasters.
The 2-acre realm of the park will now be fully themed around sharks: including Mako, Shark Encounter, Sharks Underwater Grill, themed gift shops, shark and shipwreck theming and educational experiences.
Surfacing summer 2016 at SeaWorld Orlando will be Mako, a 200-foot-tall hypercoaster that will reach 73 mph along 4,760 feet of steel track — nearly a mile long — and leave riders feeling both breathless and weightless. Named for one of the ocean's fastest known sharks, Mako will be Orlando's tallest, fastest and longest roller coaster.
"On Mako, you'll experience what it's like to be this apex predator, surging through the water at top speed and chasing prey throughout a massive reef," said Brian Morrow, SeaWorld's attraction creative director. "It will be a wild mix of fear, thrills and fun."
Mako's tight turns and speed are inspired by reality. Mako sharks — also called "blue pointers" — are known for their top speed, making extreme jumps and the ability to quickly change course as they pursue their prey.
The new coaster will become one of the world's few true hypercoasters, a group of roller coasters known for high speeds and steep drops and hills that create a feeling of weightlessness or "air time." As the sleek coaster cars crest each hill, riders float, nearly weightless.
Mako is manufactured by Bolliger & Mabillard, a company renowned among coaster enthusiasts. B&M has built many of the world's top roller coasters, including SeaWorld's Manta and Kraken, and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay's SheiKra.
SeaWorld's new hypercoaster will be the centerpiece of the newly themed surrounding realm. The two-acre plaza now will be fully shark themed including Mako, Shark Encounter, Sharks Underwater Grill, shops, shark and shipwreck theming and educational experiences featuring sharks.
The entire realm is created to make guests feel they're underwater, part of the group of sharks and toothy animals that have taken over a shipwrecked reef.
In the plaza, guests will learn about the impact humans are having on sharks and why these animals are critical to the environment. Sharks are hunted for their fins — considered a delicacy in certain countries — and thousands are caught accidentally in nets. Several species of sharks are on the verge of extinction.
"It's this blend of education and thrills, immersing guests in an underwater world, that sets a SeaWorld ride apart from others," said Morrow.
"Our fans will love how Mako complements our other rides. Kraken is big, monstrous and twisty. Manta is massive and glides smoothly, taking you on a flight like a huge ray. Mako is entirely different. It's streamlined and fast, just like a mako shark. There's no wasted motion, it's all speed and dives."
Mako uses a unique sound system to enhance the experience, and not just for those on the ride. The full score of Mako can be heard and follows riders out of the station and up the lift hill. Custom surround effects and musical scores fill the realm, changing as the coaster dives through the area.
At night, specialty lights will accent the coaster trains, realm and track, flickering and shimmering, simulating fish being scattered by a mako on the hunt.
Follow the Mako frenzy using the hashtag #NothingFaster. Visit SeaWorldOrlando.com for more information and updates on the new ride.
SeaWorld Entertainment named a longtime entertainment and theme park executive as its new chief executive officer Thursday.
Joel Manby, 55, was appointed to the top position in an announcement to the entertainment company's board of directors. He will fill the role beginning April 7.
Manby has more than 20 years experience in the entertainment and theme-park industry.
Imagine strolling alongside a sandy shoreline as mammoth killer whales no further away than 20 feet glide through shallow water, its perimeter lined with plants and rocky formations. That’s just the teaser for an interactive experience that will ultimately guide visitors to SeaWorld along a 40-foot descent into a wide-open underwater vista of orcas swimming and frolicking overhead.
Blue World, as it’s being called, is a $300 million initiative that SeaWorld Entertainment hopes will captivate and educate its patrons while recognizing it is unlikely to silence its harshest critics.
On Friday the much discussed documentary "Blackfish" will be released to the general public. SeaWorld this weekend took the opportunity to respond to some of the claims made within the film. The film's primary focus is on SeaWorld's most infamous killer whale, Tilikum. Tilikum has allegedly been involved in the deaths of three people. The most recent incident occurred in 2010 resulting in the death of Dawn Brancheau for which there is no doubt about his involvement. According to the NY Times, in an email SeaWorld sent to fifty film critics, they labeled the film as "shamefully dishonest, deliberately misleading and scientifically inaccurate." The company also challenges some insinuations or misconceptions allegedly made within the film. They first say that SeaWorld has not captured wild whales in 35 years and continued by refuting the claim that they did not adequately inform trainers of the dangers of working with Tilikum.
The filmmakers responded to the email by saying that SeaWorld refused to be filmed for the film itself. They also say that many of SeaWorld's claims are invalid because they insist that the film does not insinuate that they capture wild whales or use punishment-based training. They also contest that SeaWorld did give adequate warning about working with Tilikum to trainers.
If you ever wanted to own Shamu, now it seems is your chance. After much debate as to sell the company outright or to simply offer an Initial Public Offering of stock, today SeaWorld Entertainment offered its IPO on the New York Stock Exchange. According to CNN Money, SeaWorld Entertainment offered 26 million shares of stock at the starting price of $27 a share. At this price SeaWorld would be valued at about $2.5 billion. The sale was backed by private equity firm Blackstone Group who purchased the chain of eleven parks that include SeaWorld, Busch Gardens and assorted water parks throughout the country in 2009. With the sale, the company hopes to pay down its debt.
Before the market opened, SeaWorld brought a few of their favorite animals that they have become known for. Among those walking on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange were a lemur, a penguin and an Otter. After opening, there was no more monkeying around when prices surged 22% in early trading and eventually closing at 24%. Jim Atchison, CEO of SeaWorld Entertainment said, “These animals are the essence of our brand, connecting people to nature, and traders at the center of the capital markets turn into 6 year-olds when they see a penguin walking by. It's amazing.” He continued to say, “Also, to see our company listed and traded is important for our employees. I started at this company as a teenager, and have seen it through a lot of phases. Getting this tremendous response gives me a lot of pride in what we've all done.”
Since the purchase, Blackstone has led the company to increased revenue and profit including $77.5 billion in profit and $1.4 billion in revenue last year.
This summer guests at SeaWorld Orlando may want to dress up in tuxedos to attend the park. That’s because SeaWorld is unveiling their new land, Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin. Scheduled to open May 24th, Antarctica will feature a themed restaurant, gift shop, educational area, and stunning architecture that integrates both the natural landscape of Antarctica but also artistic representations of the true stars, the penguins. This expansion is the biggest expansion in that parks history.
The true highlight if this new land is the new mobile simulator ride based on the journey of one heroic penguin. The ride itself is reminiscent of other rides in Orlando, but utilizes all new technology and ride cars. Built by Oceaneering International Inc., the ride cars will allow for eight guests to experience the life of a penguin as the cars waddle and slide just like penguins do. One of the most exciting aspects of the ride is the ability for the ride cars to randomize each ride experience. This will allow for each ride to provide guests with unique experiences upon multiple rides but also give ride operators the ability to express different emotions that they want the guest to feel. In one stage of the ride, the cars will move through the actual penguin enclosure that highlights a 20-feet deep underwater habitat where guests will be able to see live penguins playing, swimming and diving.
According to Brian Morrow, Creative Director for SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, “Antarctica is the next generation of blending ride experiences and entertainment to empower guests to care for the world and hear the stories we want to tell.” Antarctica represents SeaWorld’s move forward integrating rides and animal habitats. He continues to say that every penguin species on the planet will be represented within this new land.
Reuters reported on December 17th that SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, the entertainment company controlled by the Blackstone Group, a private equity firm, were close to filing for an initial public offering.
On December 27th, the Associated Press and the company itself confirmed that the company filed paperwork to go public with a $100 million Initial Public Offering. As more investors become interested in the company, the number is likely to change according to the company’s bankers.
Blackstone bought Busch Entertainment Corporation back in 2009 from Anheuser-Busch InBev for $2.3 billion according to the company. The purchase included all SeaWorld properties, both Busch Gardens properties and adjacent waterparks. It also included Langhorne, Pennsylvania’s Sesame Place as well as Orlando, Florida’s Discovery Cove. Blackstone is expected to sell some of its stock but is planning to keep a majority stake in the company.
According to the Associated Press and SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, about 24 million people attended the parks the company controls in their fiscal year that ended on September 30th. The parks have stated they have a “stable attendance base”.
SeaWorld will use the money raised on the market to pay down debt and make payments to the Blackstone Group. While the date of sale, how many shares and share asking price is unknown, SeaWorld did state they will be trading under the ticker symbol “SEAS” on the Nasdaq market.