We might not see Shamu go public after all. According to a report in Reuters, it looks like SeaWorld is exploring a sale of the company to a group of private equity firms (though there was no mention of a valuation).
SeaWorld, which recently filed for an IPO, operates 11 water-based amusement parks featuring a total of 67,000 marine and terrestrial animals, including 28 killer whales.
Back in 2009, in the depths of the financial crisis, Blackstone Group (NYSE:BX) purchased SeaWorld from Anheuser-Busch InBev (NYSE:BUD) for about $2.7 billion. The firm’s sense for market timing seems pretty good considering Reuters says SeaWorld now might be worth as much as $4 billion.
And that’s why Blackstone still might go forward with the IPO. Other companies in SeaWorld’s sector have done quite well, as seen with the gains of Six Flags Entertainment (NYSE:SIX) and Cedar Fair (NYSE:FUN), which are up a respective 50% and 65% in the past year. And it seems unlikely that private equity firms would be willing to pay much of a premium to the current values in the public markets.
Tom Taulli runs the InvestorPlace blog IPO Playbook, a site dedicated to the hottest news and rumors about initial public offerings. He is also the author of “How to Create the Next Facebook” and “High-Profit IPO Strategies: Finding Breakout IPOs for Investors and Traders.” Follow him on Twitter at @ttaulli. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.