Blackstone Group sells entire stake in SeaWorld to China's Zhonghong for $429 mn

US private equity firm Blackstone Group yesterday sold its 21-per cent stake in SeaWorld Entertainment Inc to China's Zhonghong Group for $429 million.

Zhonghong paid $23 per share, or $429 million, a premium of nearly 33 per cent to SeaWorld Thursday closing price of $17.31, and get two board seats in the Orlando-based company.

Under the terms of the deal, Zhonghong Group cannot sell its stake in SeaWorld for a period of two years or acquire more than 24.9 per cent of its outstanding shares.

A spart of the deal, SeaWorld will provide licensing and consulting services for developing and designing theme parks, water parks, and family entertainment centers in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau, which would be operated by Zhonghong Holding, an affiliate of Zhonghong Group.

Blackstone had acquired SeaWorld in 2009 from Anheuser-Busch InBev for $2.3 billion, and took it public in 2013 but retained a minority stake.

"Zhonghong Group is making a significant, long-term investment in SeaWorld, reflecting their appreciation of the strength of our brand, our potential to grow the company and a shared commitment to protect wildlife and the environment," said Joel Manby, president and CEO of SeaWorld.

"We are delighted to engage with SeaWorld to bring this iconic, world-class family entertainment brand to China. SeaWorld's commitment to inspiring guests to protect animals and our oceans is increasingly relevant to people all around the world," said Yoshikazu Maruyama, president of Zhonghong's US operation.

SeaWorld owns or licenses a portfolio of brands including SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, and Sea Rescue.

It operates12 theme parks in California, Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Texas

The company's theme parks feature a diverse array of rides, shows, and other attractions with broad demographic appeal.