SeaWorld Entertainment, the business behind Shamu the killer whale, wants to make waves in the public market. The company says it will try for a $540 million initial public offering, in what would be among the largest offerings this year.
SeaWorld plans to sell 20 million shares at between $24 and $27 apiece. Half the stock comes from the company’s owner, private equity shop Blackstone. At the range’s midpoint, SeaWorld would be valued at $2.4 billion.
A whale of a deal for investors? Hardly. The stock would fetch a hefty multiple. At the midpoint, $25.50 a share, shares would trade at 27 times trailing earnings. Top competitors Six Flags Entertainment (12.1 times), Carnival Corp. (17.9 times) and Cedar Fair (22.6 times) trade at lower multiples. Walt Disney is also cheaper (19 times), though the resort unit there is bolstered by both the entertainment and TV network businesses.
The theme park company was bought by Blackstone in 2009 from Anheuser-Busch. After three full years of PE ownership, SeaWorld revenues have increased to $884.4 million from $730.4 million. The company is newly profitable, earning $77.4 million in 2012, a stark contrast with the $45 million loss it recorded in 2010. Most of the revenue comes from admissions to the 11 parks, though some also from merchandising and licensing.