SeaWorld’s stock (NYSE: SEAS) took a serious hit Wednesday as the company admitted the PETA/Blackfish protests have taken a toll on the amusement parks’ bottom line.
The stock has lost a third of its value and was trading below $20 Wednesday, following the company’s report on its results, which outlined revenue performance that fell short of expectations.
SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. reported revenue of $617.4 million through June 30, a drop of 5 percent as compared to the same period last year. That resulted in a net loss of $12.1 million, or 14 cents per diluted share. In the second quarter, the company tallied a net loss of $15.9 million.
Though SeaWorld attributed the poor performance to several factors, including increased competition and a a delay in opening new attractions, officials also admitted ongoing protests over the treatment of orcas has affected the company.
Overall, park officials said, attendance has fallen 4.3 percent, “largely impacted by a decrease at the Company’s destination parks primarily in the second quarter.
“The Company believes attendance in the quarter was impacted by demand pressures related to recent media attention surrounding proposed legislation in the state of California,” according to the earnings report.
The company also announced that it would repurchase $250 million of its stock next year.
“The Board’s authorization of a share repurchase program reflects our confidence in the health and long-term outlook of the Company,” CEO Jim Atchison added. “With a strong balance sheet and cash flows, we believe we can take advantage of volatile market conditions to buy back our shares while maintaining the flexibility to make strategic investments in our future.”
The documentary Blackfish, which outlined activists’ concerns about killer whales kept in captivity, along with a campaign launched by PETA, the animal rights group, against SeaWorld, helped drive state lawmakers to consider banning parks from using orcas in shows. The legislation stalled, but the criticism persists.
SeaWorld executives have denied abuse allegations, along with accusations that they do not do enough to protect trainers who work with killer whales.
The company runs 11 theme parks, notably San Diego’s SeaWorld, as well as SeaWorld parks in Orlando and San Antonio.
The Wall Steet Journal reports that in December, Atchison said attendance at the company’s main attractions was “markedly better” despite publicity over the release of the Blackfish film.
“It’s had no impact on our business,” the paper reports he said then, predicting that SeaWorld would post impressive financial results.
On Twitter Wednesday, market observers were impressed, but not in the way SeaWorld had hoped. “Q2 was a disaster in every way,” noted one poster, Rick Munarriz, who uses the handle @market.
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