* Blackstone exiting ownership
* Offer price of $23/shr at near 33 pct premium
* Shares rise about 10 pct to $19.00
(Adds background, shares)
March 24 SeaWorld Entertainment Inc
said China's Zhonghong Zhuoye Group Co Ltd would buy Blackstone
Group LP's stake in the embattled U.S.-based marine park
operator, sending SeaWorld's shares up 10 percent in morning
trading on Friday.
Zhonghong Group – a diversified holding company for
investments in real estate, leisure and tourism – would buy the
21 percent stake for $23 per share, or $429 million, a premium
of nearly 33 percent to the stock's Thursday close.
Private equity firm Blackstone will no longer have any
interests or board seats at SeaWorld after the deal closes in
the second quarter of 2017.
Blackstone, which bought SeaWorld in 2009 for $2.3 billion,
has been reducing its stake in the company since taking it
public in 2013.
SeaWorld, which operates 12 theme parks in San Diego,
Orlando and San Antonio, faced criticism after the release of
the 2013 documentary "Blackfish", which depicted the captivity
and public exhibition of killer whales as inherently cruel.
The company said last year it would stop breeding killer
whales in captivity.
SeaWorld, which has reported falling revenue for the last
three years and a loss last year, suspended dividend payments in
A consortium of investors, including advisory firm Glass
Lewis & Co founder Gregory Taxin, in September revealed a 5.2
percent stake in SeaWorld and said it would engage in talks with
the company's management.
As part of the deal announced on Friday, SeaWorld said it
would provide advisory services and support for developing 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.
SeaWorld will also increase the size of its board to 11,
including two executives from Zhonghong Group.
The agreement also contains restrictions on Zhonghong
Group's ability to sell its interest in SeaWorld for a period of
two years or acquire more than 24.9 percent of its outstanding
SeaWorld's shares were up 7.2 percent at $18.55. Up to
Thursday's close, the company's shares were down 13.4 percent in
the past 12 months.
(Reporting by Sruthi Ramakrishnan in Bengaluru; Editing by
Savio D'Souza and Martina D'Couto)