Blackstone in talks to acquire Anheuser-Busch theme parks: report

Blackstone Group  the world's largest private-equity firm with $93.5 billion of assets under management, is in talks with Anheuser-Busch InBev to acquire its theme parks in a deal valued at between $2.5 billion and $3 billion, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The paper said today, citing unnamed sources, that the equity firm is close to a deal to acquire the 10 amusement theme parks operated by Busch Entertainment, which include SeaWorld, Adventure Island, Discovery Cove, Aquatica, Adventure Island in Florida and  Sea World in Texas and California.

Busch Entertainment came under the Anheuser-Busch InBev umbrella when Belgium-based InBev, the world's largest brewer, acquired Anheuser-Busch for $52 billion last year. (See: InBev acquires Anheuser-Busch for $52 billion; Budweiser to be flagship brand)

InBev had said in March that it would hive off $7 billion worth of non-core assets to pay down debt and declining profits. (See: AB InBev to shed more assets as profits drop 41 per cent)

Anheuser Busch InBev carries a debt of $56.5 billion in its balance sheet as of March 2009 and the brewer has been since cutting jobs and selling assets to pay down its huge debt.

It has already sold a 20 per cent stake in Chinese brewer Tsingtao to Japan's Asahi this year, raising $667 million, and raised another $100 million from selling the US brewing and distribution business of Labatt, its Canadian beer brand.

It also sold its South Korean brewery to the buyout firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts  for $1.8 billion in May, and sold its US can and lid plants to Ball Corporation and Tennents Lager in Scotland and Ireland for $870 million this week.