SeaWorld's profit soars on increases in attendance

Orlando SentinelMarch 27, 2013 

ORLANDO -- Annual profit soared more than 300 percent last year at Orlando-based SeaWorld Entertainment Inc., even as the company weighs a possible public stock offering later this spring.

The owner of SeaWorld and Busch Gardens theme parks said it earned $77.4 million in 2012, according to updated regulatory filings, more than triple the $19.1 million it made in 2011.

Total revenue rose 7 percent to more than $1.4 billion at SeaWorld, which owns 10 amusement parks in the U.S., including five in Florida.

Ticket sales climbed 7 percent for the year to $884 million. SeaWorld said the primary driver was higher ticket prices, particularly at SeaWorld San Diego, where the company opened a variation of its hit Manta attraction, and at SeaWorld San Antonio, where it opened an Aquatica water-park area.

But the company said attendance also grew during the year, to more than 24 million visitors chain-wide. It singled out the San Diego and San Antonio marine parks; SeaWorld Orlando, which opened TurtleTrek in 2012; and Busch Gardens Williamsburg in Virginia, which opened a roller coaster dubbed Verbolten.

Sales of food, souvenirs and other items also rose 7 percent, to $540 million, on a combination of higher prices and larger crowds.

Previously known as SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, the theme-park operator filed at the end of last year for an initial public offering aimed at raising at least $100 million.

Private-equity giant Blackstone Group, which bought SeaWorld in late 2009 for approximately $2.5 billion, would retain a controlling stake in the company once it becomes a publicly held corporation.

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