SeaWorld makes $3 billion-plus offer to buy Ohio-based theme park company that owns Schlitterbahn

One theme park industry expert said SeaWorld’s offer may be “pressing the throttle to the limit.”

Editor’s note: This story was published through a partnership between KSAT and the San Antonio Business Journal.

Cedar Fair L.P., owner of more than a dozen theme parks, including Schlitterbahn water parks in New Braunfels and Galveston, confirmed receipt of an unsolicited, non-binding offer from SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. to purchase the company.

Ohio-based Cedar Fair (NYSE: FUN) said it is currently consulting with its independent legal and financial advisors and its board of directors will carefully review and consider the proposal.

The offer is more than $3 billion, according to a Bloomberg report. It comes less than three months after Orlando-based SeaWorld reported an increase of more than 11 million park guests in the third quarter of 2021 compared to the same period a year ago.

“You’ve got to look at a lot of things. You’ve got to look at the balance sheets and see what the debt loads are,” said Dennis Speigel, founder of International Theme Park Services Inc., a consulting company that provides services including feasibility analysis, operations planning and management. “When you look at the two companies, in my opinion, Cedar Fair has a much deeper bench strength.”

Cedar Fair Entertainment Co. has made some significant headway toward profitability. In November, it reported a net income of nearly $148 million for the third quarter of 2021. That gain was tied in large part to $753 million in net revenue, a 5% improvement over same-period revenues in 2019 — prior to the pandemic.

Cedar Fair lost more than $21 million through the first nine months of 2021. That’s considerably better than the nearly $485 million loss the company sustained over a comparable period in 2020.

Speigel, who is also involved in merger and acquisition work, said there is heightened discussion in the industry about potential deal making. He also said SeaWorld has an aggressive chairman in Scott Ross.

Yet Speigel believes SeaWorld may be “pressing the throttle to the limit” with such an offer.

Cedar Fair officials said the company will determine a course of action it believes is in the best interest of the organization and its shareholders.

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