SeaWorld files for an IPO

SeaWorld Entertainment Inc., which operates the theme park in San Diego, among others, could raise $540 million in an initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange. (Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

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SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. and its killer whales are going public, filing for an initial public offering that could raise $100 million.

The theme park company, famous for using the orca Shamu as a performer, said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it hopes to trade under the SEAS ticker.

But it didn’t say much else – not what exchange will host its stock, or how many shares will be up for grabs, how those shares will be priced or when they’ll be offered.

The Orlando, Fla., company – whose 11 theme parks include the Busch Gardens parks on the East Coast and three Sea World centers in San Diego, Orlando and San Antonio – is owned by Blackstone Group. The company’s animal collection includes some 67,000 marine and terrestrial beasts.

SeaWorld said it plans to use the IPO to repay debt and make a payment to Blackstone. The investment firm bought SeaWorld from Budweiser brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev in 2009 in a multibillion-dollar purchase.

Blackstone also owns a substantial stake in Legoland and Madame Tussauds parent Merlin Entertainments Group.

In the 12 months ended Sept. 30, SeaWorld’s parks drew 24 million visitors, according to the filing. The properties include five of the top 20 theme parks in the U.S. by attendance.

The company pulled in $1.2 billion in revenue in the first nine months of the year.

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