Friday, March 31, 2017

SeaWorld Entertainment Gains New Chinese Investment + Possibility of New Parks in Asia

SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment announced last week that a Chinese diversified holding company, the Zhonghong Group, had purchased a 21% stake in the company.  The group purchased the public company's shares from Blackstone, the investment company that purchased the chain in 2009 and made it a public company in 2013.

The Zhonghong Group is focused on "strategic growth opportunities in the leisure, tourism, and culture industries" according to SeaWorld Entertainment's press release about the transaction.  The sale was priced at a 33% premium over SeaWorld's stock price, showing that the Chinese company was quite motivated to take on a share of SeaWorld.

And, not surprisingly, it's because they will now be able to use SeaWorld's theme park expertise to develop parks in Asia.  The release states that SeaWorld will now "advise Zhonghong Holding exclusively on the concept development and design of theme parks, water parks, and family entertainment centers to be developed and operated by Zhonghong Holding, including exclusive rights in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau."  As we continue to see theme parks in Asia being built frequently, this means that several of the countries listed above could have a licensed SeaWorld, Aquatica, Discovery Cove, etc themed park built.

SeaWorld has already stated that their commitment to ending orca breeding programs will stand regardless of what new parks come online in the future.

Zonghong Group is currently building Monkey Kingdom, a large theme park located outside Beijing in China.  The group will fill two new seats on SeaWorld's board, and they cannot dispose of their company shares for at least two years.

This news article also details that they will pay SeaWorld millions of dollars for the ability to license a SeaWorld park over the new few years, along with more payments for design and consulting fees.  As SeaWorld continues to work on their brand image and declining performance, this move is generally being seen as a big positive for their future.