The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

March 15, 2014

Attendance slips at SeaWorld parks, but company reports record annual earnings

— ORLANDO, Fla. — Attendance dipped at SeaWorld parks during the final three months of 2013, but the Orlando-based theme-park operator said it still posted record earnings in its first year as a public company.

SeaWorld President and Chief Executive Officer Jim Atchison said the lingering controversy spawned by the anti-captivity documentary “Blackfish” has not harmed the fortunes of SeaWorld Entertainment Inc.

“We have seen no impact on the business,” Atchison told analysts during a conference call to discuss SeaWorld’s fourth-quarter earnings.

The furor surrounding “Blackfish” peaked in late 2013, when it aired repeatedly on CNN and prompted a host of high-profile musical acts to pull out of concerts at SeaWorld Orlando. The fallout has continued this year, with a California lawmaker recently filing legislation to bar captive-killer-whale shows in that state.

But Atchison said the company’s six SeaWorld-branded theme parks — which include SeaWorld Orlando, Aquatica and Discovery Cove in central Florida — combined to post their best-ever fourth-quarter attendance, outperforming the company’s other five parks “by a considerable margin.” And he said SeaWorld hasn’t seen any shifts in surveys about consumers’ plans to visit.

Among individual parks, SeaWorld Orlando was an especially strong performer, he said, churning out record revenue on the strength of “Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin,” which opened last spring.

Still, it was a soft quarter for the company overall. Smaller crowds at the company’s other parks helped pull chainwide attendance down 1.4 percent from a year earlier, to 4.5 million visitors.

SeaWorld operates several regional parks that close during the winter, and the company typically operates at a loss during the first and fourth quarters. But its fourth-quarter loss of $13.5 million was 54 percent larger than its loss during the fourth quarter of 2012.

Total revenue, however, climbed 3 percent for the quarter to $272 million, as SeaWorld raised prices for food, tickets and merchandise and as visitors bought more in its parks.

“2013 was all about pricing, and we pushed the pricing lever pretty hard,” said SeaWorld Chief Financial Officer Jim Heaney.

And even with the deeper quarterly loss, SeaWorld said that 2013 — a year highlighted by an initial public stock offering in April — was a banner one.

SeaWorld said it rang up a company record of almost $1.5 billion in revenue in 2013, an increase of 3 percent from 2012. And it said adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization — which the company uses as a measure of its core performance — rose 6 percent to $439.1 million, another record.

Total attendance dropped 4.1 percent to 24.4 million visitors. But SeaWorld made more money from the visitors it did draw, as per-guest revenue leapt 7 percent to $62.43.

SeaWorld’s bottom-line profit shrank 35 percent for the year, to $50.5 million, partly because of costs incurred during its IPO.

Company executives predicted that attendance would begin to grow again this year as SeaWorld opens attractions in nine of its 11 parks. Next week also marks the launch of SeaWorld’s $10 million “Sea of Surprises“ 50th-anniversary celebration, an 18-month campaign that will include new evening killer-whale shows, additional animal encounters and more entertainment in the SeaWorld marine parks in Orlando, San Diego and San Antonio.

The company projected that sales would grow 2 percent to 4 percent this year, while earnings will rise 3 percent to 6 percent.

Big announcements could be coming soon, Atchison said: SeaWorld is negotiating with potential partners for expansion projects, including international theme parks. He estimated it would take SeaWorld 2 1/2 to 4 1/2 years to build and open a new park once a deal has been struck.

SeaWorld is “now focused on really talking to specific partners in specific locations,“ he said. “We’ll be excited to share some news in the not-too-distant future.”

1
Text Only
News
  • Official: Air Algerie flight ’probably crashed’

    An Air Algerie flight carrying 116 people from Burkina Faso to Algeria’s capital disappeared from radar early Thursday over northern Mali and “probably crashed,” according to the plane’s owner and government officials in France and Burkina Faso.

    July 24, 2014

  • 1gaza25.jpg Israeli fire hits UN facility in Gaza, killing 15

    Israeli tank shells hit a compound housing a U.N. school in the northern Gaza Strip on Thursday, killing at least 15 people and wounding dozens who were seeking shelter from fierce clashes on the streets outside.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • 1execution.jpg How Arizona, Ohio, Oklahoma, executions went awry

    Since the start of the year, executions in Ohio, Oklahoma and Arizona have gone awry, with inmates gasping for breath as lethal drugs coursed through their bodies.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Today's Editorial: One more job appears at risk

    July 24, 2014

  • Rabbi Conflict in Israel grounds Sunbury rabbi

    TEL AVIV, Israel — While the Israelis and Hamas traded rocket and missile strikes for a 16th day, Rabbi Nina Mandel is struggling to find her way back to Sunbury after the FAA on Wednesday announced that it would extend its ban on travel at Ben-Gurion International Airport for another 24 hours.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Fatal24 Danville woman dies as logging truck crushes car in Valley Township

    DANVILLE — An 84-year-old Danville woman was killed when her car and a logging truck collided Wednesday afternoon at Routes 642 and 54 in Valley Township.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Docs: Fractures helped save rock victim's life

    DANVILLE — Sharon Budd’s condition is progressing nearly a week after a 13 1/2-hour procedure in which a team of surgeons rebuilt her facial bones and removed a damaged part of her brain, said two Geisinger Health System physicians who are part of that team

    July 24, 2014

  • Magistrate judge sides with Warrior Run

    WILLIAMSPORT — A federal magistrate judge says he agrees with a hearing officer that a Warrior Run student does not need special-education services,

    July 23, 2014

  • Inaugural Lewisburg BrewBQue Musical Festival is Saturday

    LEWISBURG — Not a beer fan? Not a problem. This Saturday’s inaugural Lewisburg BrewBQue Musical Festival, taking place from 2 to 6 p.m. on Market Street from Sixth Street to the Susquehanna River, welcomes brew lovers, barbecue fans, dancers in the street and little tykes alike with an array of events and offerings, organizers said.

    July 23, 2014

  • Decision coming on police shooting of city man

    SUNBURY — Brad Hare, the city’s former acting police chief, will learn by Friday whether he was justified in shooting a city man earlier this month, Northumberland County District Attorney Ann Targonski said Wednesday.

    July 23, 2014

The Daily Marquee
Video
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.