Park operator for sale?
Anheuser-Busch has agreed to be acquired by InBev for about US$52 billion (€35 billion). The deal will create the world’s largest brewer and puts the iconic American beer maker in the hands of the Belgian-based company behind the Stella Artois and Beck’s brands. It is still unclear, however, what will happen to the Busch Entertainment Corporation, the company’s theme park division, which owns and operates 10 properties in the United States.
It is thought the Belgian company may try to sell off Busch Entertainment and its operations, which include the Busch Gardens (pictured) and SeaWorld parks. Busch Entertainment employs about 26,000 people. Last year’s sales totalled $1.27 billion, about 8% of Anheuser Busch’s net sales. The parks are worth $4 to $5 billion alone, but the pool of potential buyers is limited.
Six Flags and Cedar Fair hold relatively high amounts of debt and are unlikely buyers, while the Walt Disney Company focuses on developing its own resort destination and has little history of making acquisitions. A number of private equity firms are believed to be interested, however.
Last month the Sunday Times in Britain reported that Candover, owner of the Spanish group Parques Reunidos, has hired investment bankers to advise on a possible $4.5 billion (€3 billion) bid. Blackstone is also a likely contender. Not only does it own Merlin Entertainments, which like Busch concentrates on building a family of strong attraction brands, it also has a 50% stake in Universal Orlando Resort, which operates a joint ticket offer with the Busch parks in Florida.