Will Six Flags buy SeaWorld?

A report in the Orlando Sentinel has suggested that Six Flags is eyeing a deal to acquire some or all of SeaWorld’s parks.

A SeaWorld spokeperson said the company doesn’t comment on speculation. Six Flags has not yet made any statement.

The deal has drawn much attention, however Rick Munarriz writing in The Motley Fool notes it is unlikely to happen while SeaWorld’s recovery continues. The time to snap up a SeaWorld bargain has passed.

Lance Hart: Would Six Flags buyng SeaWorld be a risk worth taking?

He also notes that Six Flags probably does not have the financial capacity to buy SeaWorld, which could be worth $5 billion. And in addition, Munarriz says that the annual pass schemes of the two organisations are incompatible.

Earlier this year, the company announced a 3 year plan to drive increases in attendance and revenue per capita. Improved marketing strategies and more in-park opportunities are planned. In addition, capex of $150 million per year is promised to attract visitors with new rides, attractions, shows and events in every park, in every year.

The documentary Blackfish (2013), accusing SeaWorld of mistreating its killer whales, severely damaged the company’s reputation. Last month, SeaWorld was fined $5 million by the Securities and Exchange Commission for failing to disclose the negative impact “Blackfish” was having on its business.

The company announced that it would be 350 jobs last year as part of an effort to shed $40 million in costs by the end of 2018.

In response to a changing public sentiment in the US, SeaWorld has shifted away from Orca breeding and theatrical shows. Instead, it is highlighting its role as a global leader in animal rescue, rehabilitation, release and research. Existing show pools and viewing areas have been redesigned into more naturalistic settings.

The strategic changes appear to be working as SeaWorld’s with attendance and revenues up leading to an 88 percent increase its stock to date in 2018.

Last year, Merlin Entertainments, owner of LEGOLAND, expressed interest in buying Busch Gardens from its beleaguered parent company, SeaWorld Entertainment. A deal never went ahead.

SeaWorld currently owns 12 theme parks and water parks. These include the original Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida and a second Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia.

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