The SeaWorld Death Spiral – Part II

Blackstone to liquidate interest in SeaWorld

SeaWorld Stock Price Decline

Just after the 2013 SeaWorld earnings announcement was made, this piece, “The SeaWorld Death Spiral” was posted which clarified the true nature of their report.  At that time very few people looked beyond the claim of ‘Record Revenue’ and ‘Increased Admissions’ statements.  Now, it appears Wall Street analysts are jumping on board, and on the heels of the announcement that IPO sponsor Blackstone Group, who at one time had a 64% share in $SEAS, will now sell the majority of their holdings for an estimated amount of $500 million. Speculation is that SeaWorld may indeed be in big trouble.

A report today by Seeking Alpha by Top Hats has a dim outlook for the viability of SeaWorld and presents the following summary:

  • SEA’s Blackfish fiasco is increasingly likely to affect the year’s earnings and outlook and may present an excellent short opportunity.
  • Brought public in a leveraged buyout and massively indebted, SEAS is grossly overvalued for a company of its maturity and compared to peers with less forward-looking risks.
  • Blackstone and company insiders will continue to head for the exits ahead of 2014’s Q2 and Q3 earnings results.

The article goes on to say “Nonetheless, the company has found itself in hot, shark-filled waters and its ability to divert investors’ attention from the circling fins will continue to diminish.”

Smoke and Mirrors

Citing dishonesty, persuasion, and skewed data by fishy corporate management in the reporting of Q4 attendance and 2013 revenue in whole, this market expert states that “For SeaWorld the viral nature of the Blackfish backlash seemingly has no end, with each problem adding fire to the next.”  The author states the IPO may be danger of being underwater by its first anniversary.

The report predicts that the CEO, Blackstone, and others will continue to sell stock feverishly and that the pace of the sales may be even more hurried in 2014.  As SeaWorld Orlando is the source of the vast majority of revenue and is sensitive to a host of factors such as economic downturns, hurricane season, competitor pricing strategies and promotions, the stock should be priced on worst-case scenario which the author feels may dip below $30.00.

The Blackfish Effect

Stock-Market-Pit-1SeaWorld is in a very precarious position in terms of debt and a cash grab by investors which at this point could bring them to their knees.  The Blackstone M.O. of taking a company public, saddling them with debt, and then selling at a target share price should have been predicted.  It appears that the Blackfish effect has not waned, and as political, legal, and public pressure continues to mount 2014 could be devastating for the company.  Management has delayed anticipated price increases and offered BOGO deals and gave away tickets all the while increasing per-capita spending with in-park gimmicks.  The death spiral of price point vs. ticket sales appears to have hit the point of no return.

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