Merlin Entertainments Hints at Possible Busch Gardens Purchase

This has the potential to cause a pretty huge shift within the theme park industry. If reports are true, Merlin entertainment could be in talks to buy Busch Gardens from their parent company, Sea World Entertainment.

Sea World parks have had a rough last few years, what is keeping them afloat (so to speak) are all the other parks under the Sea World Entertainment umbrella: Busch Gardens, Aquatica and Discovery Cove. Now if local news reports are true, Sea World Entertainment could be considering a way to sell off some of its assets to help boost the bottom line.

When reports like this go out (speculation or not) the theme park industry listens and starts to crunch some numbers on their end. Knowing enough people in the industry, I can tell you that nearly every major single theme park operator in the world kicked around the numbers on what might be a valuable asset to them moving forward assuming Sea World Entertainment did open up the floor to the potential sale of some of its parks. I would even go as far as to say other investment firms that currently do not have a theme park under their belt are also eyeing the possibility.

Recently it became known that Merlin Entertainments would be interested in acquiring Busch Gardens should the opportunity arise. Merlin, the world’s largest attractions company after Disney, would be a natural fit for Busch Gardens. Especially the Tampa park as they could bundle tickets with Legoland, the Orlando Eye, Madama Tussaud’s and SeaLife Aquarium.

 

Merlin chief financial officer Anne-Francoise Nesmes recently was quoted as saying, “It takes two parties to do a deal so we do not know what SeaWorld’s intentions are but we do believe that those assets [Busch Gardens] are interesting and we could certainly do a lot with them particularly around accommodation, so to us it’s about having the right discussion with a willing partner and making sure we have the right financial return.”

Could this happen? We shall see. Sea World is going to update everyone with their second quarter results within a week or so. How the market reacts could be a telling sign of if they indeed decide to put some of their parks and assets up for sale. Your thoughts?

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