Sea World Entertainment files for public offering, opens books

Company aims to raise $100M from IPO

SAN DIEGO - A filing that could pave the way for Sea World Entertainment to go public is offering a first-ever look at the theme-park company's books.

Shamu and company are about to make plenty of waves -- in the financial world.

“This is good news for Sea World.  Going public shows the strength of the company, “said Dennis Speigel, president of International Theme Park Services, a consulting firm in the theme park industry.

In the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing, Sea World's parent company, Blackstone, says it plans to raise $100 million from an initial public offering.

“Typically, a company doesn’t go public if it’s showing a poor performance.  They've really had stellar performance and outperformed the industry,” said Speigel.

A statement backed by the numbers revealed in the filing.

In the first nine months of 2012, total revenue at Sea World's 11 theme parks climbed to nearly $1.2 billion, up nearly 8 percent from the first nine months of 2011.

In that same time frame, profits jumped to $86 million -- up 73 percent.

The company does have loads of debt -- some $1.8 billion as of September. But experts tell 10News Sea World’s debt levels are in-line with the industry.

Speigel believes Sea World's fortunes have been lifted by more aggressive expansion and marketing. Including its show, “Sea Rescue,” which airs on ABC 10 on Saturday mornings.

The IPO could add also mean more cash flow down the road, if the company decides to sell more shares or apply for a secondary offering.

“We believe they will expand internally with new attractions and externally opening new parks,” said Speigel.

Recently, Sea World bought Knott's Soak City in Chula Vista, with plans for a water park with animals, to open in 2013.

It also plans to transform its main gate into an attraction dubbed “Explorer's Reef” in 2014.

Those expansions could be a boon to San Diego’s economy in the form of more visitors, tourism dollars and local jobs.

Sea World isn't allowed to talk about the public offering.

There's no word yet on the date, or price.

Sea World hopes to trade using the ticker symbol "SEAS."

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